By: Brittany Flaherty Theis
Beginning this calendar year, public schools and charter schools are subject to two new mandates requiring accommodations for female students. Public Act 100-0029 addresses breastfeeding accommodations for students. Public Act 100-0163 addresses the provision of feminine hygiene products. Public Act 100-0029 and Public Act 100-0163, by their terms, subject charter schools to the same requirements, which are described below.
Accommodations for Lactating Students
Public Act 100-0029 created Section 10-20.60 of the School Code. The new law requires each public school to provide reasonable accommodations to lactating students on a school campus to express breast milk, breastfeed an infant child, or address other needs related to breastfeeding. Reasonable accommodations for such purposes may include, but are not limited to: access to a private and secure room, other than a restroom; permission to bring a breast pump and any other equipment; access to a power source; and access to a place to store expressed breast milk. Additionally, a lactating student must be provided a reasonable amount of time to express breast milk or breastfeed. A student that receives such accommodations cannot incur any academic penalties as a result of the accommodations and must be given the opportunity to make up work missed during her use of the accommodations. A student who files a complaint of noncompliance with these provisions also has the right to a grievance procedure, which the school must implement in accordance with Title 23, Part 200 of the Illinois State Board of Education’s regulations regarding sex equity.
Notably, school districts have likely addressed requests from employees for accommodations to express breast milk, similar to those discussed above, pursuant to the Illinois Human Rights Act, which was amended a few years ago to add pregnancy to the list of protected categories.
Availability of Feminine Hygiene Products
In adopting Public Act 100-0163, the Illinois General Assembly found that feminine hygiene products are a health care necessity that cannot be foregone or easily substituted. It also found that access to such products is a serious and ongoing need and that students without access to affordable feminine hygiene products may miss multiple days of school every month. “When students have access to quality feminine hygiene products, they are able to continue with their daily lives with minimal disruption.” According to the General Assembly, for those reasons, Public Act 100-0163 requires school districts (and charter schools) to make feminine hygiene products available, at no cost to the students, in the bathrooms of school buildings serving students in grades 6 through 12.
Both Public Act 100-0029 and Public Act 100-0163 were effective beginning January 1, 2018, which means public and charter schools are already subject to these requirements. Schools may use an existing facility to meet the breastfeeding accommodations, and need not prepare a private and secure room until, or unless, there is at least one lactating pupil on the school campus. Administrators should confirm that they are prepared to address the requirements of Public Act 100-0029 if the need arises, as well as confirm that they are adequately meeting the requirements of Public Act 100-0163.
Whitt Law attorneys have received inquiries regarding these laws and are available to help administrators work through any questions they might have. Please contact Whitt Law attorney Brittany Flaherty Theis if you have any questions regarding Public Act 100-0029 or Public Act 100-0163.
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