Idaho and Utah were the last states to give women the right to breastfeed in public. Amanda Oglesby | Wochit, Asbury Park Press
Theresa Phillips was breastfeeding her baby at Kiva Elementary in Scottsdale last week when a school administrator asked her to move to a more private area, according to a video she posted on Facebook.
The mother was visiting her daughter and breastfeeding the younger sibling during an outdoor recess.
The video shows an upset Phillips talking with Assistant Principal Matt Gromek, who tells her that she can use a room on the campus for more privacy.
“You can send me into a different room?” Phillips asks. “I don’t need privacy.”
“I would prefer that,” Gromek says.
District: ‘some parents may not wish to have their children exposed to breastfeeding’
The Scottsdale Unified School District issued a statement Friday saying administrators offered Phillips a private space to continue breastfeeding when she became upset and began taking a video of the interaction.
Phillips did not have permission to film other students, the statement reads. Several other students can be seen in the video while Phillips and Gromek are speaking to each other.
Kiva Elementary School is in Paradise Valley and is part of the Scottsdale Unified School District.
(Photo: Mary Beth Faller/The Republic)
“While we as adults understand the important connection and health benefits realized for mother and child through this form of nourishment, we also realize some parents may not wish to have their children exposed to breastfeeding and to be filmed by an unknown adult at school without their prior permission,” the statement says.
The Arizona Republic is not sharing the video to protect students privacy.
The district’s statement says school staff never asked the mother to stop breastfeeding.
“She was simply offered an alternative space because they recognized that not all activities are age-appropriate,” they wrote.
Mom defends right to breastfeed
Phillips could not not immediately be reached for comment, but responded to the district’s statement in a Facebook post, saying the assistant principal ushered her out of nursing in public.
“The Assistant Principal approached me, after a teacher walked past and loudly asked “Is that even allowed in public?!” Phillips wrote.
As of Sunday, Phillips posted that she had not spoken directly with anyone from the district after the incident.
“Here’s a novelty idea: How about never sexualizing women breasts, young or old?” she wrote. “I can’t wait for the day where a woman’s body is not under greater rule than a man’s.”
Arizona law protects breastfeeding in public
Arizona law says a mother is entitled to breastfeed her child in public and is not subject to indecent exposure laws, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Mothers are not required to use a cover while nursing.
“If you are in public and asked to stop breastfeeding, ask for the supervisor or manager in charge,” a department pamphlet reads. “Some people are uninformed, but the manager should be able to educate the employee.”
The school district says it’s main concern was “to ensure that our students were safe and protected, including their privacy, while on campus.”
Have a tip out of Scottsdale? Reach the reporter Lorraine Longhi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-243-4086. Follow her on Twitter @lolonghi.