This is the best word I can come up with to describe the Poway Nurse-in that took place last Wednesday, September 25, 2013. The momentum was high, the cause was worthy, the mothers were passionate, and the outcome was slightly disappointing. I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we didn’t get kicked off the premises and that the feedback from our community was generally positive, yet I am still utterly shocked at the stubbornness and insensitivity of the Poway Unified School District board and management.
I’m generally a positive person, so let’s start with the ‘sweet.’
Over 50 mothers and babies attended the nurse-in to show their support for Rachel Rainbolt and for a mother’s right to breastfeed in public. These passionate mamas started to arrive at 6:45am so that when the first news cameras began to roll at 7am we had a crowd behind the interviews. Infants, twins, toddlers, and preschoolers latched on throughout the morning, soaking in some mama love as their mothers demonstrated for this worthy cause. Signs were propped up around the outside of the building so that the district employees would be informed of why we were there.
Six local news stations and our main local newspaper (the Union-Tribune) sent reporters and camera crews to interview me and Rachel about why we had organized the nurse-in. All were in disbelief that Rachel had been told that she would not be able to attend her son’s state-sponsored educational presentation if she intended to breastfeed her baby at the presentation. All asked what we hoped to accomplish with the nurse-in, which is when we proudly stated that we hoped that Poway USD would create a clear, transparent policy that was in accordance with CA civil code 43.3 and that all mothers would be able to breastfeed their children on all of their properties.
Lastly, the largest positive outcome of the nurse-in was that with so much media coverage, breastfeeding in public awareness definitely increased in our community. Anyone who watched the local morning and evening news on Wednesday now knows that California has a law that protects a mother’s right to breastfeed her child in public. That is a HUGE win for breastfeeding mothers in our community!
Now here comes the ‘bitter.’
At 9:30am, the district’s superintendent, head of human resources, and a few other district employees exited the building, handed out a typed press release to all of the nurse-in attendees, and then presented the press release to a few of the remaining news stations. Rather than describe what the press release said, here is a copy of it. Let’s just say I had to hold myself back from crumpling it up and tossing it at the feet of the superintendent.
As you can see, the press release says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! While I appreciate the link to their district’s policies, I have spent much time on this webpage and see no policy that states that a mother is able to breastfeed her baby on their properties. This is something we have been asking to see for over 5 months now and we still have not seen this district policy. We have even offered to assist with writing the policy and we have always been told that they do not need our help.
Then, the superintendent addressed the group of mothers. He reiterated the contents of the press release and then went on to say that it is up to the teacher’s discretion to decide if breastfeeding in her/his classroom would be disruptive to her/his students.
Teachers out there, let me ask you this…. When have you EVER been told that something that was a state policy was left up to your discretion in the classroom??? Curriculum - nope! Stateside testing – nope! How much money should be spent on your students – Definitely NOPE!
And, please correct me if I’m wrong… but, when is it EVER allowed for one to use discretion to decide whether he/she wants to follow a state law??? “Officer, when I rolled through the stop sign I used my discretion that no one would get hurt if I didn’t stop that completely.” Good luck getting a judge to side with you on that one in court!
The fact that the district continues to state that breastfeeding is synonymous with disruptive and something children need to be ‘protected from’ is sexist and gender discrimination.
As you can see, we have gotten absolutely NOWHERE with this district! Definitely bitter and disheartening!
Where do we go from here?
Unfortunately, Poway isn’t the only local school district finding themselves in hot water. Just last week, the San Diego Nursing in Public Task Force received information from a mother who was discriminated against for breastfeeding in public at a school in the Fallbrook school district. She used our Task Force template to send a letter to the district with the hope of ameliorating the situation, but was immediately dismissed. Currently, she is also filing a complaint with the DFEH. Clearly, dealing with our local school districts is getting us nowhere.
Our next step looks like we are going to have to take this issue statewide. We have a few ideas in the works, but would love to hear your advice as well. If you have a connection to someone in the California state government, San Diego government, or ACLU, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, please share your ideas in the comment section of this article.
This situation is far from over yet and we are hopeful that a resolution will be made where CA civil code 43.3 will be enforced and supported on all California school campuses.