How would you handle this delicate situation?

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I don’t envy my professional colleagues who slog along in the legal fields of anti-trust, oil and gas, or commercial real estate.  They make lots of money, but the work…..boring.  And nobody wants to talk to you about your work.   We don’t relate, we don’t understand, we don’t care. 

But school law!! We deal with simple stories that present challenging legal questions in a context that everyone can understand.  So try this one on for size.  A kindergarten teacher wants to create a bulletin board featuring pictures of the families of each of the children in the class. What a wonderful idea!  The kids are told to bring a picture from home. It can be just the child and a parent, or both parents, or the extended family, or whatever. 

So Samantha brings a beautiful family picture.  She is standing beside her mom, who sits in a chair. Her dad stands behind the chair. All of them are beaming proudly at the camera. The mom is too as she sits in the chair. The mom is holding something close to her. It’s a baby. The baby is nursing. 

Not much of the mother’s breast is visible, but…well…this is a kindergarten class. Some of the children will not understand what is happening. Awkward questions might arise.  

So the teacher told the mother that this picture was not appropriate in the classroom, and would she please send another one. The mom was livid, threatening litigation over this prudish, anti-family, anti-mother decision.  This came up in a state that allows a woman to breastfeed her child in any location where she has the right to be.   It wasn’t Texas, but it could have been, as we have such a law also.   So….what to do? 

This very situation came up in a recent discussion on the COSA Listserv (Council of School Attorneys).  The group came to consensus pretty quickly on this one.  The lawyers thought that the right to breastfeed does not include a right to have a picture of the event posted in a public school classroom. Therefore, the teacher had the authority to reject the picture.  However, the group also felt that it would be important not to impose any punishment on the little girl. So, for example, if this was considered an assignment that carried a grade, the student should not get a bad grade based on the decision her parents made about what family picture to send.

I’ll take stories like that over complicated oil and gas royalty interests any day.  As I like to remind you educators: y’all are overworked and underpaid, under appreciated and over criticized. But the stories!


Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!