UPDATE: Victim of Breastfeeding Discrimination - Mothering Forums

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Old 11-10-2010, 11:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I need some support, to vent.  I am feeling really infuriated by what occurred to today, and I think you ladies will understand.

My older son is in Head Start and I have been volunteering with him several times a week. I have had some serious doubts about putting him in head start. I am not a fan of public schools, and am considering homeschooling/unschooling my sons eventually, however Kai was asking for friends every day, so I thought we would try it out.  He has been having a somewhat hard time with the separation and I haven't been a fan of the teachers too much. But that is another story...what I did like is that they let me come and volunteer with Atlas, my 13mo whenever I wanted.   I nurse him occasionally on demand there.  I was told in the beginning of the year that this was fine, but just do it not at the table during snack time.  I followed this request.

Today I was told by my son's teacher that breastfeeding would no longer be allowed in the classroom.  They offered the breakroom or the bathroom.  They said that any new mom or nursing mom would breastfeed in there, that this was being told to all the new moms.  I told her that it is a legally protected right to breastfeed in public.  She said that because head start is to prepare kids for public school, and that public schools do not allow breastfeeding, they have to go along with it.  I asked if it was policy, and she said that it just is to make other volunteers and staff feel comfortable.  She did a fine linguistic dance around "policy".

I am really shocked that they would do this, and I told her so.  I told her it is so important for people to witness normal, healthy breastfeeding relationships.  That it's good for kids to see.  I asked her, "Would you make a bottle feeding mom go to the bathroom to feed her baby?" and she said no.  I told her that the peninsula needs more young mothers to breastfeed, that it would go allong with the Head Start philosophy of giving kids a good start nutritionally.  I said that making another barrier to young moms who want to breastfeed by implying it's dirty and must be hidden is not going to encourage the breastfeeding relationship.  I went on and on. There was more to the conversation, but that gives you an idea.  She just kept repeating that its about other parents and the staff  being comfortable.  She detailed one day that a teacher from the other classroom saw my breast "nipple and everything just hanging out there"!!! I said, that there is more explicit stuff on prime time tv (I don't have TV but I am guessing, and I have heard smile.gif) and that it's not my problem, it is theirs.

I said that I wanted to speak to her supervisor, however her supervisor I guess isn't going to be there for weeks.  She said I could have a conference call with her supervisors supervisor.  I said I want to, and I will. And I will get this in writing.

I think that Head Start is considered public space, and according to the law in Washington State it is discrimination to not allow a woman to breastfeed in a public space.  I would really appreciate your advice on this, as I feel badly for myself as well as other mom's.  I feel that there should be as few barriers to women breastfeeding their children as possible and am dismayed and humiliated.

What I really want to do is have a nurse in.  Anyone interested?

I am really upset, because this is just the icing on the mad cake I have been baking about Head Start.  There are a lot of things I like, but I really don't like this teacher, and I don't like the constant monitoring and government oversight.

What is shocking about it all is this woman has a three month old she breastfeeds! She pumps when she is at work.  I just don't get it.

 

I think I am going to start a discrimination case about it.  It's appalling.  Does anyone have any good ideas for a direction to go in or have experience with this?  I am in Washington State.
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Old 11-11-2010, 02:29 PM
 
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Quote:
She said that because head start is to prepare kids for public school, and that public schools do not allow breastfeeding, they have to go along with it.

 

This is nonsense. smile.gif

 

Head Start Regs:

§ 1304.40 (c)(3):Family partnerships.

(c) Services to pregnant women who are enrolled in programs serving pregnant women, infants, and toddlers.

(3) Grantee and delegate agencies must provide information on the benefits of breast feeding to all pregnant and nursing mothers. For those who choose to breast feed in center-based programs, arrangements must be provided as necessary.

 

Link: http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/Program%20Design%20and%20Management/Head%20Start%20Requirements/Head%20Start%20Requirements/1304/1304.40%20Family%20partnerships..htm

 

Technically, these regs apply to Early HS programs, but if I were you, I'd get in touch with the ECLKC (Head Start's Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center)--http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc. They should be able to tell you who to pursue your complaint with at HS (the supervisor, or perhaps someone at a higher level than her).

 

Good luck!

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Old 11-11-2010, 02:54 PM
 
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At worst, the "policy" should apply to all infant feeding and not discriminate against breastfeeding babes. If they are going to allow mothers with babes then they should understand that they have to eat, breastfed babes eat on demand, and it makes anyone uncomfortable to be excluded.

 

THE WASHINGTON STATE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION And THE BREASTFEEDING ...

 

Breastfeeding "Discrimination" | Breastfeeding Washington

 

A school IS a place of public accommodation (section 7) under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

Places of Public AccommodationMore places of public accommodation


"It should be a rule in all prophylactic work that no harm should ever be unnecessarily inflicted on a healthy person (Sir Graham Wilson, The Hazards of Immunization, 1967)."
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Old 11-11-2010, 02:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anna Phor View Post

 

 

This is nonsense. smile.gif

 

Head Start Regs:

§ 1304.40 (c)(3):Family partnerships.

(c) Services to pregnant women who are enrolled in programs serving pregnant women, infants, and toddlers.

(3) Grantee and delegate agencies must provide information on the benefits of breast feeding to all pregnant and nursing mothers. For those who choose to breast feed in center-based programs, arrangements must be provided as necessary.

 

Link: http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/Program%20Design%20and%20Management/Head%20Start%20Requirements/Head%20Start%20Requirements/1304/1304.40%20Family%20partnerships..htm


Ooh, that's good.


"It should be a rule in all prophylactic work that no harm should ever be unnecessarily inflicted on a healthy person (Sir Graham Wilson, The Hazards of Immunization, 1967)."
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Old 11-11-2010, 02:56 PM
 
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Well I am not sure where they get nursing doesn't happen at school?? I nursed my lo several times at the school while i was there for various functions nobody has ever batted an eye. My daughters sp'ed did offer me the use of the teachers break room once but only because  the gym was packed with art fair pictures and there was nowhere to sit without getting run over by someone


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Old 11-12-2010, 09:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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"For those who choose to breast feed in center-based programs, arrangements must be provided as necessary."

 

Hmmm.  Not sure if they are illegal in this regulation, because the law states they can't ask me to leave anywhere.


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Old 11-12-2010, 02:36 PM
 
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So that's a federal regulation--but if your state law is stronger, then that also applies. I.e. they don't cancel each other out; one supports the other.

 

But given that you have a choice here of making a complaint to WA state OR going to the feds who control the purse-strings at HS, if I were you, I'd go to the feds. (Or you could do both, of course.) If you make a complaint at the state level, they might throw the book at your one center. If you ask for help from the feds, (i) you let the folks in DC know that HS centers are in need of education about bfing and (ii) you potentially impact ALL the HS centers nationwide, not just the one in your state. Also? If you go complain to the funding agency, they will. get. scared. Just sayin'

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Old 11-12-2010, 10:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you thank you for the direction.  I will do so.  I want to know how to make the most impact.


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Old 11-16-2010, 12:54 PM
 
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I think filing a complaint with the Washington Civil Rghts Commission sends the strongest message.

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Old 11-17-2010, 12:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I talked to our regional supervisor yesterday, and she backed up what the teacher said.  She basically said because people had been complaining it was being implemented. She basically told me I have strong feelings about this, and that's understandable, but this is their policy.  She said I can file a grievance, and I said sure please send me information regarding that and she said "I don't have my finger right on it, I will get back to you" umm sure you will.  She claims she breastfed for 2 1/2 years 24 years ago, so she knows how I feel.  Oookaaayyy... 

 

I said that it is their role to educate those who don't feel comfortable with breastfeeding moms in how important it is and how it's protected by law.  She replied "it's not going to change people's minds if we hit them over the head with it, we need to make it so they are able to hear it".  That's well and good, but wrong, because it's discrimination.  We don't say to racists or bigots, we will accommodate your uncomfortableness because otherwise you won't change. 

 

I asked her "If you had someone who couldn't eat properly, a volunteering parent who was missing part of their jaw, and it was making other parents uncomfortable, would you make the disabled person leave?"  She said "We would suggest the person who was uncomfortable leave"  She realized her hippocracy in that moment, but backtracked and said that "the situation was different, we are accommodating you".

 

I also got it in writing from the teacher:

 


"Our meeting on Wednesday, was to go over the new changing table that will be arriving anytime for placement in the last bathroom, volunteering hands free in the classroom, being able to move around the room and work with children and with siblings in the classroom being able to keep them with in eye sight at all times per our siblings in the classroom guidance.  Lastly, that as a center we realized that we have many new moms and moms who are beastfeeding, and that our center has not accomataded for these parents.

As a center, staff came together and have made two areas available so that moms can have a quiet calm place to nurse their children and then changed them as needed that is not on the cold bathroom floor in the classroom bathroom.  The areas in the center which are permitted to breastfeed will be in the conference room, and in the last bathroom.

Our office staff had made signs to post for when a mom is feeding a young child in these rooms." Emphasis mine, spelling errors hers.

 

So pretty clear.  And pretty wrong.  I called the Human Rights Commission and they got back to me, I am playing phone tag. 

 

I am going to the federal level as well, as this seems systemic not just my own Head Start.  I can't get over how nuts this is.


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Old 11-17-2010, 01:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Just talked to the Office for Civil Rights and they said that it would be best to pursue it at the state level.  I felt pretty brushed off, that they didn't really count it as discrimination, which seems odd because it is a state law, and they are federally funded.


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Old 11-18-2010, 11:36 AM
 
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Will you be going back? If you do, I would bring with me a copy of the law and just nurse my LO whenever/wherever and show it to them every time they say something, and to the police if they involve the authorities.


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Old 11-18-2010, 03:21 PM
 
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Washington state considers breastfeeding discrimination a civil rights violation as of last year. Federal law does not. So because of where you live, state law is unquestionably stronger.

I would be curious to hear how this goes. This is a new law and I always like to see how well states enforce them.

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Old 11-18-2010, 03:44 PM
 
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Good grief.  Have you tried talking to other parents who might support your cause?  Maybe if other Mom's complain too, along with whatever legal action you can take, it will push them in the right direction.


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Old 11-18-2010, 07:23 PM
 
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subbing. 

 

I'm new to the lactivism forum, but what if you just disregarded them and breastfed where you wanted? What would they realistically do? I realize there is value in filing a complaint/civil rights action. Just wonderin'.


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Old 11-19-2010, 08:45 AM
 
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I'm all for helping to organize a nurse-in if you think that would help.  (I'm a live just a few minutes away from Olympia and I'm nursing 2-year old twins.)


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Old 11-19-2010, 11:36 AM
 
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I think I'd keep a few copies of this on hand (THE WASHINGTON STATE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION And THE BREASTFEEDING ...), hand one to your HS person and then file a complaint with the WSHRC. You are clearly in the right and she/they are clearly in violation of the law. I'd also print out copies of the cards with the law for HS to distribute to complainers.


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