DCSS looks at breast feeding at school - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

DCSS looks at breast feeding at school

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  Should students, teacher, and staff be able to breast feed their babies in Dougherty County Schools?

A teacher raised the question that's now been posed to the school board. Wednesday a dozen health professionals asked the school board not to approve the proposed policy that would prohibit breast feeding on school premises.

School Officials say all the law requires them to do is to accommodate new parents. The proposal would allow, a quiet place to express breast milk for those choosing to breast feed, but Wednesday health professionals say they want more options for parents.

Wednesday's school board meeting looked more like a health convention when a dozen health professionals spoke up over their concerns with the systems newly proposed breast feeding policy.

"That skin to skin contact is beneficial to the employee to the teacher and to the student as well," said Dr. Donna Edmond-King, East Albany Pediatric & Adolescent Center.

Right now the school has no policy although they've got 210 student parents, not to mention a number of new parent teachers. Superintendent Dr. Joshua Murfree says federal and state guidelines set the regulations.

"You can accommodate, our policy says we will accommodate, I have to be very, very careful to make sure to this community that we understand what we're doing," said Dr. Joshua Murfree, DCSS Superintendent.

The policy says the breastfeeding of babies by students or teachers on school premises is not permitted. School officials say it's because it's disruptive to the educational process.

"A baby say is three months old, comes into the system, that baby cries someone here that down the hall, students come into the halls and look, that just disrupted instruction, some people may say it doesn't, yes it does," said Murfree.

Health professionals argued there are various health benefits to breast feed. School officials say they're not preventing that, by allowing both teachers and students to use the nurses office and time during breaks to express breast milk.

"There are breast pump available for students who may need a breast pump during regular school hours," said Angie Barber, Phoebe's Network of Trust Director.

Phoebe's Network of Trust which runs the school's health offices say they work diligently to talk to students about avoiding a teen pregnancy, but when it happens, they're supportive. Now health professionals are asking that the board be more supportive of new mothers by allowing children to be brought to school to nurse.

For the second time the board tabled the issue, but its expected to be discuss again next month. After hearing from health professionals Wednesday some board members said they wanted more time to consider the systems proposed policy.

Teen pregnancy rates here in Dougherty County remain high, although they've declined from 52 per thousand in 2006 to 47 per thousand in 2008 for ages 10 to 19. That's still higher than the state's average of 34 per thousand.

 Dougherty School officials patterned their policy after the Atlanta Schools policy.

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