The ACLU Foundation of Connecticut will represent a woman in a lawsuit regarding the right to breastfeed without restriction in public schools, according to a press release published last week.
In May 2017, Mandy Whitman-Singh was allegedly sitting inside a classroom for a parent-teacher conference at Cranbury Elementary School and breastfeeding her child when she was told she could not breastfeed there.
“I felt shocked and humiliated when a teacher told me I couldn’t nurse my youngest child,” Whitman-Singh said of the incident. “After that, I was afraid to nurse in public.”
Whitman-Singh met with the school district afterwards, and the administration “affirmed that [the school’s] policy was to restrict breastfeeding to a designated location,” the press release said.
Whitman-Singh then filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), claiming the Norwalk Public Schools had restricted her right to breastfeed.
“By asking breastfeeding mothers to move or cover up, Norwalk Public Schools is reinforcing outdated and discriminatory views about breastfeeding,” Whitman-Singh said. “This is degrading to the mother, it discourages breastfeeding, and it prevents breastfeeding mothers from being full participants in society if they have to hide or fear being shamed every time they need to breastfeed.”
According to the ACLU Foundation of Connecticut, it is “discriminatory for any place of public accommodation to restrict or limit the right of a person to breastfeed” under current state law.
The City of Norwalk and CHRO have argued in court that public schools do not count as “places of public accommodation” and that the civil rights law therefore does not apply to Whitman-Singh’s situation.
Last August, the Connecticut Superior Court sided with Whitman-Singh and ruled that schools do fall in the category of “places of public accommodation,” meaning that the Norwalk Board of Education had violated her right to breastfeed her child.
“Public schools exist to offer their educational services to the public,” said Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Klau. “That they do so for students in kindergarten through grade 12 does not undercut their status as places of public accommodation.”
A month later, the City of Norwalk appealed the superior court decision, according to the press release. The case is currently active, and the Connecticut ACLU will now officially be representing Whitman-Singh in future legal matters.