A Port Allen mother is demanding an apology from the West Baton Rouge Parish School Board after the principal of her child’s school asked her to refrain from breastfeeding uncovered in the office of the school.
Aisha Marshall is a stay-at-home mother of four who just recently moved to Port Allen from Slidell. She says she has always felt confident nursing until the morning of November 8. That morning she was in the office of Port Allen Elementary School to register her second-grader at the school. As she was finishing filling out paperwork her 13-month-old son became hungry and she began nursing him without a cover.
She was told by the school’s secretary, who soon called in the principal, that “she couldn’t do that here” and “should at least cover up.” Marshall said she would not cover up and began broadcasting the incident on Facebook Live. In the video, the principal offers Marshall his office, where she can nurse in private. But Marshall says she was not interested.
Principal: “Well these are young kids.”
Marshall: “Okay. He’s a young kid.”
Principal: “Yes ma’am. You can go in my office if you’d like to.”
Marshall: “No. Um, what’s the problem? Tell me the problem. That’s what I’m wondering. Legally I can breastfeed my child anywhere I want and it does not say that I have to cover him up. So, tell me what’s the problem.”
The mother of four takes it a step further asking the principal to put himself in her son’s shoes.
Marshall: “Would you eat your plate of food under a cover?”
Principal: “No ma’am. I think that’s different.”
Marshall: “What’s different? He’s got to eat. Everybody has to eat. What’s the difference?”
Almost a week later, Marshall says she is confident she made the right choice. “I’ve given this child life for 13 months straight from the boob. It’s a beautiful thing, and I stand by it.”
Louisiana law protects a woman’s right to feed her child in any place that she is allowed to be. Under the law, the mother is not required to cover up while nursing.
Marshall says she has tried more discreet ways to breastfeed her son, but they do not work. “I’ve tried the two-shirt method. It’s what I really usually do but if I put a cover over him he fights it off. He’s not going to nurse with the cover over him.”
West Baton Rouge Superintendent Wes Watts says he is not apologizing for what his employees did because he does not believe they infringed on the mother’s rights. He told WAFB’s Cheryl Mercedes over the phone,
“Our job is to protect the educational environment of our students. She was offered a place to go in private and she refused. I am comfortable with how my school handled that in trying to accommodate her and protect our students.”
“No hard feelings but that’s hurtful to me because you made me feel like I was doing something wrong when I was simply feeding my child,” Marshall said. She has filed a complaint with the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights.
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