The College Post
The College Post -- Covering Higher Education in America

College Instructor Bans Student From Breastfeeding During Online Class

A student from Fresno City College clashed with her instructor when he told her not to breastfeed her 10-month old daughter during his online class.

Marcella Mares shared that she was taking a remote statistics class on September 23 when her instructor told students it was mandatory to leave their cameras and microphone running during his four-hour long class.

Mares emailed her instructor that she may have to turn off her camera when she has to breastfeed her baby. She received a reply from the instructor which stated she should not breastfeed during class time “because that is not what you should be doing” and that it should be done after the class.

Discriminating Against Breastfeeding Students

What irked Mares was when her instructor mentioned her email in front of the whole class. He said that he had received a “weird” email about students who needed to do “inappropriate things” during his class. He also said parents in the class should be creative when they care for their children so they can listen to the lecture.

“He’s not only being discriminating against me,” Mares told local news outlet The Fresno Bee. “He’s also discriminating against the other parents in his classroom.” She also said it was “really unprofessional” to reveal her email to the entire class.

Mares eventually dropped the class for unrelated reasons, but she shared her experience in a Facebook post, citing she was “so red” because the instructor would rather she let her child go hungry for that length of time, “just so I can copy notes that are available to me indefinitely.”

I’m mad. I’m in class right now & he said “I got a weird email from a student about her having to take care of some…

Posted by Marcella Mares on Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Mares responded to the instructor’s email, asking him about his rules on breastfeeding. This time, she looped in Fresno City College Title IX coordinator Lorraine Smith, also the Dean of Allied Health, Physical Education, and Athletics Division. 

Smith admitted that sometimes instructors refuse to give exceptions for anything in their class, even in situations when they actually should. She noted that the transition from face-to-face to online learning should still warrant “the same allocations.” Lactating mothers were allowed to step out of class and return, so students should be afforded the same protection “no matter what the modality is.”

In an email sent to Mares, Smith apologized for the inconvenience and assured her that she can breastfeed her child “at any time during class,” even at quizzes and group worksheets.

California State Law

The incident was noted by Fresno City College Public Information Officer Kathy Bonilla. She confirmed to CNN that there was a complaint against Fresno City College regarding a student who was not allowed to breastfeed during an online class. 

Bonilla corroborated that it was Dean Smith who communicated with the student and affirmed her rights in accordance with California law. The instructor eventually corrected his directive, since he became aware that there were statutes in place.

“California law requires that schools accommodate students for conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth including lactation,” Bonilla explained. The mothers should be excused whenever they need to “without academic penalty.”

Mares mentioned that she did not have any problem with other classes with regards to her breastfeeding, and noted that the instructors were even supportive.