DCSS board considers breast-feeding, homeless policies

ALBANY, Ga. -- One of the newest issues for the Dougherty County Board of Education is whether to allow breast-feeding in schools.

That was one of the items on the board's agenda at its Wednesday meeting on the campus of Jackson Heights Elementary School -- and the issue was ultimately tabled until the next board meeting.

There were two separate resolutions presented to the board, one pertaining to teachers and employees and another pertaining to students. Both resolutions stated that school officials had determined that breast-feeding during school hours would be disruptive to the education process.

In light of that, the resolutions, as they were presented, called for nursing mothers to be permitted to pump breast milk in private quarters and be provided refrigerated facilities to preserve milk until it can be removed. The milk would be expressed during break periods -- specifically, lunch breaks -- afforded to them by school administrators.

The act of breast-feeding a baby on campus is not permitted under the proposed policy.

The topic gained interest from area pediatricians and lactation experts, who asked to address the board in support of allowing mothers who choose to breast-feed their children on school premises to do so during non-instructional time.

For students, the suggestion brought forth by the health care professionals at the meeting was to for the mother to present a note and to allow the student to breast-feed in a designated area with only the infant, mother and a caregiver present.

"It's a difficult decision to leave a child at home and go to work (or school)," said Dr. Donna Edmond-King, a physician with East Albany Pediatrics. "We need to encourage the bond (between mother and child)."

While the maternal bond is a concern, that is not the only benefit of breast-feeding. "Direct breast-feeding offers more health benefits," King said. "There have been studies done on that."

Dr. Sylvia Washington, also of East Albany Pediatrics, addressed the financial concerns attached to expressing breastmilk.

"Pumps are $200," Washington said. "Who is going to supply the pump (and other needed materials), because there is a cost?

"Breast-feeding is free."

In light of the information presented from local experts, the board voted 5-2 -- with David Maschke and Carol Tharin being the dissenters -- to table the measure until its April meeting.

The board also acted on a resolution to adopt a new homeless student policy, which applies to students who:

- Share the housing of others because of economic hardship;

- Live in motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds because of a lack of adequate accommodations;

- Are abandoned in hospitals;

- Are awaiting foster care placement;

- Live in emergency or transitional shelters;

- Do not have a nighttime residence designed, or ordinarily used as, regular sleeping accommodations;

- Are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, sub-standard housing, bus or train stations;

- Are migratory children.

"Throughout the district, there is a homeless situation," said Superintendent Joshua Murfree. "There are some young people that have been out of school for two years. Homeless or not, we need to educate them.

Under the new policy, children in homeless situations can stay in their school of origin to the extent feasible or enroll in any public school students living in the same attendance area are eligible to attend. The school system will also provide transportation to and from the school of origin.

The difference between the old policy and the new policy is the transportation aspect, which was not included in the old policy.

The new policy also states that a liaison or designee can assist in the enrollment process, and help in the resolution of disputes concerning enrollment.