House bill authorizing breastfeeding at public schools makes it to floor debate
After short debate and wide support in committee, a bill mandating that school districts provide reasonable accommodations for lactating student mothers was schedule for a final vote on the House floor before going to the Senate
Rep. Sonya Harper (D-Chicago) introduced House Bill 2369 to give teen mothers time and a private space to breastfeed children while remaining in school without suffering any academic penalty.
HB2369 would require public and charter schools to provide such accommodations. Since its introduction, four other House members signed on to be chief co-sponsors of the bill.
When HB2369 was voted on in committee, almost every Republican member of the panel — Reps. Thomas Bennett (R-Gibson City), Randy Frese (R-Quincy), Tony McCombie (R-Savanna), Bill Mitchell (R-Decatur), Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley), Steve Reick (R-Woodstock), and Dan Swanson (R-Alpha) — supported the legislation. Rep. Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) was present but did not vote.
Pritchard told the Sangamon Sun he supported the bill because there was no major cost.
“Looking at what this bill provides, I think that school districts could do this without a law; but, it is obvious that the bill sponsor felt that we had to do something,” he said. “I don’t see where this is going to be a real cost factor. I mean, all you have to do is provide a separate room for a student. The number of students that would have children while still going to school is going to be pretty limited, so I don’t see where this going to be a big issue one way or the other.”
Not all of his colleagues agreed.
“This bill is an unfunded mandate and would be disruptive to the school day if taken to its most extreme requirements,” Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) told the Sangamon Sun. “I understand breastfeeding is beneficial for both mom and baby. But I disagree that public schools should be mandated to accommodate such on school grounds.”
Reasonable amounts of time for lactation would be granted, per the legislation. A public school would have to make accommodations even if there is just one lactating student on campus. Schools could use existing facilities. Student mothers would be given reasonable accommodations to make up any late or missed work.
A committee amendment to the bill also grants that any pupil who complains that the school’s campus is non-compliant can go through a grievance procedures based on the adopted rules concerning sex equity, outlined in the School Code. This also allows for students to take complaints directly to the school’s administration rather than filing an appeal to a local board of education or the Illinois State Board of Education.
“This bill requires schools to allow, not just the express pumping of breast milk, but also the direct breastfeeding of infants,” Ives continued. “Despite what many believe, you cannot breastfeed an infant on a definitive schedule, making this entire proposal unworkable. We increasingly ask our schools to do more related to parenting and health than schools are designed for.”