The City Sentinel, Staff Report
With students returning to the classroom soon, Sen. Carri Hicks wants to make sure new mothers in Oklahoma schools are aware of a recent state law protecting their rights. This session, the Oklahoma City Democrat authored Senate Bill 121, which became law on July 1, requiring school districts to allow their employees time during the workday to express milk or nurse.
On Tuesday, Hicks was joined by members of the Coalition of Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates (COBA), who requested the measure, at the state Capitol for the ceremonial signing of the bill by Gov. Kevin Stitt.
“Our public school teachers care for our kids all day, and I’m so happy that we’re now supporting them to care for their own babies by giving them pumping breaks during the school day,” said Becky Mannel, Board of Directors Chair, COBA.
“We commend Senator Hicks, Representative [Toni] Hasenbeck and the other legislative authors of Senate Bill 121 for recognizing that workplaces play a crucial role in providing supportive and relevant policies for breastfeeding mothers, who are the fastest growing segment of our nation’s labor force.”
Hicks had her three children while teaching, and said she is relieved no other mothers will have to resort to bathroom stalls, closets, cars, and other uncomfortable places to pump or nurse like she and so many others have had to do in the past.
“Being a new mother is stressful enough, and constantly worrying about maintaining one’s milk supply makes it even worse. This new law ensures that, starting this school year, our teachers and school employees now have the same rights as government and public employees and can nurse and pump while at work,” said Hicks.
“I’m extremely grateful for the bipartisan support this bill received and to COBA and all the mothers and families who advocated for this critical change and helped get this new law on the books.”
Under the new policy, school districts must also make a reasonable effort to provide lactating mothers with a private, secure, and sanitary room for pumping or nursing.
“As COBA [celebrated] National Breastfeeding Month, there is no better way to acknowledge the undeniable health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby than to work collaboratively with school districts across Oklahoma to welcome lactating teachers and employees back to the classroom with supportive and relevant breastfeeding-friendly policies,” said Mannel.
Rep.Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin, a former teacher, served as the principal House author of the bill.