Mom Claims Officials at Her Daughter's School Made Her Leave the Premises for Breastfeeding

Theresa Phillips
12 News

A mom from Tempe, Arizona, is speaking out after officials at her daughter's school tried to stop her from breastfeeding while she was visiting during recess. Theresa Phillips said that the assistant principal of her daughter's elementary school was adamant that she stop nursing, but the mom knew her rights and fought back. Now video of the incident has gone viral as other mothers are rallying behind the mom to send the message to the school that breastfeeding is perfectly natural.

  • The incident happened when Phillips was invited to her daughter's elementary school to bring snacks for a special theme week at school.

    mom shamed for breastfeeding at kid's school

    As reported by People, Phillips's daughter goes to Kiva Elementary, and when the mom arrived with goodies for Special Persons Week, she could never have imagined that her visit would go so horribly wrong. As she sat outside at recess with the kids, her newborn son wanted to nurse. Phillips, a mother of four, proceeded to breastfeed her child, but was stopped by the assistant principal who asked her to move to a private area.

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  • But Phillips knows her rights and told the principal that she was allowed to breastfeed in public.

    Theresa Phillips

    In video taken by the mom on April 4, (which CafeMom has decided not to share because it includes images of minors), the assistant principal first offered to put Phillips in a "private room," but she shot back that a private room wasn't needed. Phillips told him that breastfeeding is legal in public spaces, which is true in all 50 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

    “I would prefer that,” he told her in the footage. “For you and the children.” He then asked Phillips to speak with him in a private room but the mom didn't back down. Seeing that the mom was undeterred by his offer, the principal then told school aides to call the children in early from recess.

    It later appears that the principal is escorting Phillips off the school premises. "No," he tells her when she asks if she is being forced to leave. But then contradicts himself. "You just have to go," and then says again "You can leave." When the mom asked him again if he was forcing her off the premises, he said "You do not have to go," before giving her the option of returning to her daughter's classroom.

    Explaining why she decided to take a stand that day, the mom said she wanted to set a good example for her daughter. “I didn’t want to cause a scene but I would have had to have left, I would have had to have left my daughter and (be) put into a room, and that would have shown her that that was okay, and I don’t want her to feel like that’s okay,” the mom told NBC 12 News.

    Phillips has shared her infuriating video online where it has racked up more than 200, 000 views, and her post has been shared more than 1,500 times. "It is inappropriate for the Assistant Principal Matt Gromek to usher nursing women out of public spaces," she wrote.

  • The school, however, is pushing back against the mom's claims and says she was in the wrong for filming minors without their parents' consent.

    In a statement given to News 12, the school refuted several of the claims Phillips made in her video. 

    A parent visiting the school began to breastfeed her infant in view of a group of first grade children, ages 6-7, during the recess period. When offered a private space to continue the breastfeeding, the mother became upset and began to video the interaction. The parent did not have permission to film other students and, unfortunately, the parent also posted the video to social media.
    While we as adults understand the important connection and health benefits realized for mother and child through this form of nourishment, we also realize some parents may not wish to have their children exposed to breastfeeding and to be filmed by an unknown adult at school without their prior permission. Our main concern during this interaction was to ensure that our students were safe and protected, including their privacy while on campus.

    At no time did the staff of the school request that the mother discontinue the breastfeeding. She was simply offered an alternative space because they recognized that not all activities are age-appropriate. Further, the mother was invited to remain on campus and rejoin her child’s class.

    Because student privacy is a concern in this video, we would ask members of the media to consider obscuring the identity of any children captured in the video or not use the video."

    But on Facebook, the mom is calling bull on the school's explanation. "Kiva Elementary has not addressed the protection of our rights, but is trying to change the conversation," she wrote in a post on April 5. "Of course they are upset I filmed their infringement upon the rights of the very people that keep them open.This is not about who is allowed to film on public property. **THIS IS ABOUT HARD WON RIGHTS**"