Breastfeeding: Student draft policy in motion before TV report, Metro says
Thanks to a certain Time magazine cover photo, breastfeeding is a hot topic -- one 7News localized with the story of a Metro State student who said her grade was docked for taking time out of class to pump breast milk. But a Metro spokesman says the school was tackling the issue before being prodded by the press.
Manige Osowski, the mother of an eight-month-old daughter, is a breastfeeding advocate: She took part in a public breastfeeding demonstration outside a local Target store this past December after a woman said she was harassed for breastfeeding at one of the firm's stores in Texas.
More recently, Osowski took a class at Metro that lasted four hours. Given the length of the sessions, she told 7News she asked for and got permission from her professor to express milk with the use of a breast pump during that stretch. When she got her grades, however, she noticed that her participation score had been marked down despite regular attendance. When she asked him why, she quotes him as explaining, "Well, you made the choice to leave to pump."
The 7News story, which aired last night, maintains that Osowski "complained to Metro State officials" but "got no response." While the report doesn't specifically trace the school's decision to draft a new policy about students who breastfeed -- one that precludes faculty members from punishing nursing students who follow it (see it below) -- to the station's actions, that interpretation is hardly discouraged.
Nonetheless, Steve Monaco, director of the Health Center at Auraria, says when his office became aware of the situation, "we responded within 48 hours and had a draft policy sent off to the Equal Opportunity Office," which had requested a review of the matter, "a week ago."
The draft doesn't allow students to be excused from a portion of a two-hour class in order to pump breast milk, but makes allowances for breaks for ones that last two hours or more.
Metro didn't have a policy for breastfeeding students, but that's not unusual. According to Monaco, "we couldn't find policies at any other schools, so we had to create our own based on clinical data." He adds that "we never had a complaint or a concern about this issue at Metro -- but once we became aware of it, we thought, 'We can write a policy on this.'"
Although Monaco stresses that Metro officials aren't frustrated by the impression that they only acted after they realized they might be embarrassed on TV ("It's just a matter of responding and clearing things up," he says), he concedes that he was surprised "that it became a story outside of the college, because we were responding to it quite effectively.
"I have no idea how often it will be used," Monaco concedes about the policy. "Most classes aren't longer than two hours. But there are classes that extend beyond that, and that's what became a concern for this student."
The policy is expected to be put into effect by the fall semester. In the meantime, Monaco says there's a procedure in place for Osowski to appeal her grade, although he hasn't heard that she's done so yet.
Here's Metro's draft policy:
Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.