'Lactation 101' grades colleges on accommodations for parents

In 2015, California legislature passed a law extending the requirements for lactation accommodations to breastfeeding students at schools.
In 2015, California legislature passed a law extending the requirements for lactation accommodations to breastfeeding students at schools.

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A law passed in 2015 requires schools to provide a space on campus for mothers to breastfeed or express milk. But a new report from the California Women’s Law Center and Breastfeed LA finds that most higher education institutions in Los Angeles County aren’t making information about those spaces readily available. 

The report, called Lactation 101, grades 107 college and universities on the accessibility of information on student and employee lactation accommodation policies and general policies for pregnant and parenting students on school websites.

"We put ourselves in the shoes of a student or employee that was looking to see what the school's policy was on this issue and what their rights were on this issue," said Amy Poyer, senior staff attorney at the California Women's Law Center. ​

The vast majority of schools scored a D. Only one school, Mount Saint Mary’s University, got an A. The California Institute of the Arts is one of two schools that scored a B. 

"The resources are important because regardless of someone’s gender or gender identity, if you need a resource, it causes angst if it’s not there," said Eva Graham, CalArts’ diversity officer.

Poyer said access to this information is an important component in helping mothers of young mothers stay in school, graduate on time and put their degrees to work. 

"So it really is a domino effect of supporting these breastfeeding mothers while they’re in school to allow them to stay in school."

Some schools are not in the practice of putting the policies online. A spokesperson from Occidental College, which scored a C, said the school's practice is to accommodate every individual who requests it and those requests typically come from employees, rather than students.

As of July 1, under Senate bill 1375, all schools that receive federal funds are required "to post in a prominent and conspicuous location on their Internet Web sites specified information relating to Title IX."

Federal Title IX law bars discrimination in education programs based on gender, which includes pregnancy-related conditions. All schools that receive federal funds are required to post contact information for Title IX coordinators prominently on websites. At the time of the report's release in June, only 61 percent of schools met that requirement.

The goal of the report is to shed light on these discrepancies and bring 100 percent of institutions in compliance with all five criteria. After the groups released a similar report examining lactation accommodations at K-12 schools in 2015, things changed. A year later, the average grade went from a D to a C.