The Dane County Board of Supervisors is set to pass a resolution formally allowing children on the Board floor during meetings, paving the way for mothers to breastfeed and parents to care for children.
“What we really wanted to do was to make sure that elected office was welcoming to everyone, including parents,” said lead author Carousel Bayrd.
The resolution, which passed the Executive Committee last week and is scheduled for a vote tonight, would codify a longstanding informal policy of allowing members to have children with them during meetings if necessary.
“We want to encourage as much participation as we can, so we wanted to be family friendly,” Bayrd said. “So of course we want to allow and support breastfeeding on the county board floor, and we have. And myself and other county board supervisors have breastfed on the county board floor. But we wanted to make sure that all children were welcome to the county board floor, if you’re bottle feeding your child, if you’re a father that has their child with them. We have many new fathers that are currently on the Dane County Board. And they are entitled to bring their children just as much as I am. And I am entitled to bring my daughter, whether I need to breastfeed her or not. This isn’t just about little children, as well. My 11-year-old was most recently with me at a county board meeting, two months ago, because I didn’t want to pay for childcare, and the other caretaker, in this circumstance, her father, was busy. So she came with me, and she sat and read a book.”
“I never was harassed, intimidated, or otherwise confronted about breastfeeding (my son) Lincoln at my seat on the board or in committee,” County Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner, a cosponsor of the resolution, said in November, when the Madison Common Council adopted a similar measure.
Bayrd said she doesn’t anticipate any opposition to the measure. She also doesn’t anticipate any problems arising at future County Board meetings.
“One thing I want to make clear is that the decorum rules still apply,” she said. “They have applied before, they will apply again. If your child is there and is disruptive and is having a temper tantrum, just like if I was there, and I was having a temper tantrum, decorum rules still apply to the county board floor. And no one has any intention of changing that. Just as they have applied when I brought my nursing child, but I also knew that sometimes with my two-year-old, I wouldn’t really get to stay very long because my two-year-old would not cooperate and be appropriate for decorum purposes, not because a two-year old doesn’t belong on the county board floor.”
The County Board resolution follows the Eau Claire City Council passing a resolution that banned children from meetings, thus prohibiting alder Catherine Emmanuelle from breastfeeding her child and prompting angry backlash across the state.