Lactation rooms available for parenting students in New York City schools: Department of Education

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Parenting students will now have access to lactation spaces within New York City schools on an as-needed basis, according to the Department of Education.

"A student can do what is best for them and their family and the health of their child, as well as pursue their education," said Ashley Sawyer, director of policy and government relations at Girls for Gender Equity.

The change is one of several made to the chancellor's regulation that deals with pregnant and parenting students and reproductive privacy.

Girls for Gender Equity officials, who worked with the DOE on suggested revisions, say these are the first significant changes since 2008.

According to 2016 figures, about 8,000 students in the system were pregnant.

"We see this as a win," Sawyer said. "This is an opportunity for the protections that are afforded to adults in the work place to be extended to the young people who are in school."

Under the lactation space provision, school officials shall:

Make a reasonable effort to find a lactation space. It must be a sanitary space, other than restroom. It's to be shielded from view and free from intrusion. It should include an electrical outlet, flat surface and a chair. The student should have access to running water and a refrigerator for storage.

"A lot of our buildings are very old so the logistics of this are where we have to be mindful," Sawyer said.

The DOE released a statement saying:

"We're committed to ensuring that all students, including those who are pregnant and parenting, feel comfortable and supported in our schools and we're thrilled that our regulations now codify this commitment. Providing a lactation space for students who need it will help make sure we are fostering a supportive environment where every student feels welcomed and every school is inclusive."

Sawyer says she sees this revision as an opportunity.

"We see this as an opportunity to ensure that students, regardless of their gender, are able to pursue their education, complete school and not have to feel they need to leave school because they are parenting," she said.
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