Teaching conference discusses transgender and breastfeeding policies

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COLUMBIA – The Missouri State Teachers Association wrapped up its 153rd annual convention Friday where members came together to discuss new resolutions including adding a transgender and breastfeeding policy. 

Around 700 delegates from Missouri school districts discussed Thursday to add new proposals to a list of resolutions MSTA accepts.

“These are ideas that teachers have and they want support from a broader base from the association to help them move forward,” Mike Wood, MSTA director of governmental relations, said. “They’re all here to help kids and their ideas are all centered around helping kids and making our profession better so students receive the best education they can.”

One of the resolutions passed is for school districts to adopt a “policy on gender expression and identity.”

The MSTA education policy committee chair said this resolution is geared toward teachers.

“The transgender issue is more for the safety of the teachers in the classroom so that the schools will come up with a policy that the teachers can follow so they’re not put in awkward situations that they don’t know what to do when that occurs in their classroom,” Chair Patty Wood said.

In addition, MSTA delegates also included a resolution for districts to adopt “policies that allow for release time and appropriate accommodations for breastfeeding/pumping.” MSTA wants each school to have a specific location for teachers to be able to pump or breastfeed and a schedule to support nursing mothers. 

“We wanted the school districts to come up with a reasonable place for the women who are in this situation to have a place to meet the needs of their children by pumping the breast milk to be able to save to take to their children after they get home from school,” Patty Wood said. “And we think that school districts should come up with a policy so that teachers can do that.”

Columbia Public Schools is ahead of the game when it comes to breastfeeding.

The district and Columbia City Council passed a memorandum in March 2015 to develop CPS as a Missouri Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite.

“We are very excited about providing this opportunity to our employees, providing a safe and quiet place for employees or patrons visiting our school district to be able to breastfeed,” CPS Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark said.

CPS received about a $30,000 Healthy Eating Active Living grant to provide lactation rooms in 30 district buildings.

Some rooms, like in Benton Elementary and Rock Bridge Elementary, are already set up with a rocking chair, lamp, table, fridge and education material.

“We’re still going through the process of evaluating each of our facilities,” Baumstark said. ”Some of our buildings will need some additional infrastructure put in place in order to make those spaces meet the requirements of the grant but also to be comfortable and safe locations.”

Baumstark said employees of both genders have been very supportive.

“Our male employees are absolutely supportive of their coworkers and supportive of their spouses,” she said.

Other resolutions MSTA delegates passed include having learning standard be in place for at least seven years and opposing using public funds for virtual education without oversight from a local education authority.