JACKSONVILLE, Florida (WTLV) – Rebecca Mabrey is a wife, college student and mother of a ten-month-old girl.
Mabrey is enrolled in a virtual course at Florida State College at Jacksonville. On June 2, she went to the college to take exams and said she was turned away. She was with her baby.
“I wheeled up there with my stroller and I was turned away,” she said.
Mabrey said the test proctor said she could not have the baby with her.
“My exam was between her nap time and feeding time,” said Mabrey, “My intentions were to let her sleep through my exam and right at the end she would wake up and want to breast feed.”
Mabrey showed the proctor a copy of the state’s “maternal and infant health care” law on breastfeeding, but that did not change anything.
“They’re directly violating a Florida statute,” she said.
Mabrey contacted the College Equity Officer and was told via email:
“Infants are currently not allowed into proctored exams both for the protection of the infant as well as to maintain an environment conducive to learning … this is not a prohibition on breastfeeding an infant … ”
“I don’t think that it is fair,” she said.
Mabrey said she knows the college makes exceptions for others: why not her baby?
“I think the college goes out of the way to accommodate students that have learning disabilities, handicaps, and have a wide array of situations where special accommodations are needed but not for breast feeding mothers,” she said.
Why did she have the baby with her? She said she took her baby that day to the test center was because her husband was unavailable to watch the child.
Now this college sophomore wonders how many other parents have had her experience and would like the college to change its policy.
“They need to make an accommodation for nursing mothers,” she said.
Mabrey feels that the college’s policy is another roadblock to parents pursuing an education.
“They allow students that have learning disabilities to go into a room by themselves but not so much for nursing mothers,” said Mabrey.
Mabrey was able to reschedule her exam, but truly believes her experience is a violation of state law.
Florida Statute Chapter 383 reads in part:
” … a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be … ”
The college is standing firm on its policy and feels this case is not a violation of state law.
“Children under the age of 16 are not allowed on campus,” wrote Michael Corby. “The student was not bringing the child to be breastfeed on the campus; the student’s purpose was to take an exam. Children are not allowed in the test center.”