Opinion: Teachers Deserve Paid Maternity Leave


Media by Sejal Patel

Babies require additional supplies such as pacifiers, teething toys, diapers, etc. Taking care of expenses to look after a newborn can be costly; therefore, paid maternity leave can help teachers properly care for their baby.

As I am slouching in human geography class, Justin Spurgeon, history teacher, changes the discussion topic to paid maternity leave. He specifically discusses RSD’s policy and my posture suddenly becomes upright; my attention is fully drawn in.

RSD’s maternity leave policy is that teachers go unpaid on maternity leave unless they have an accumulation of approved personal and sick days, Brenda Tinsley, RSD human resource specialist, said. Tinsley said in one school year, full-time teachers are offered 10 sick days and 2 personal days.

With only 12 days provided each year, teachers planning to have kids in the future try to miss the least amount of days possible so they can accumulate days to spend time with their newborns. 

If teachers meet the requirements of the Family Medical Leave Act (working for the institution for one year and working 1,250 hours within that year), then teachers are allowed up to 12 paid weeks off by using borrowed sick days, Tinsley said.

There is some flexibility in the number of paid days offered, but the hectic atmosphere of motherhood is not considered. 

Nursing the baby, adjusting to little sleep, changing diapers and taking care of a small fragile human is a hard job. It takes time to adapt to motherhood.

Besides the baby, the personal health of the teacher needs to be accounted for, whether that be recovering from complications from the pregnancy or body image issues due to weight gain. 

Teachers deserve more than just 12 weeks to transition and learn the basics of taking care of their child.

Psychologist Erica Komisar wrote a book called “Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters.” Komisar said the more time a mother spends with their child in their first three years, the more likely the child’s brain will develop in a healthy manner. The child will have less probability of being mentally unstable or having troubles in the future.

For a baby to be well nourished, a positive start is necessary. A mother is the one person who can provide that start, which teachers should not be deprived of due to worries related to paying bills.

Every teacher has a different financial situation, so some may need the paychecks more than others; however, no teachers should feel like valuable time with their newborn is taken away because they have to prioritize making payments.

An 82% majority of Americans support paid maternity leave but only 21% of the American workforce are offered it. Starting with RSD, I hope to see the percentage increase.

This change doesn’t have to be abrupt; it can be gradual. 

I suggest that the 12 weeks of paid maternity leave be increased to 16 weeks which equals a semester off. 

RSD should also personally ask teachers who are currently pregnant about their needs and life at home in order to provide a personalized plan for each teacher. Teachers are required to attend a pregnancy leave meeting at the central office where they learn their options and fill out paperwork stating their plan but more one-on-one conversations need to occur.

With the frantic life post-pregnancy for teachers, RSD should consider taking steps toward slowly eliminating policies that mandate non-paid maternity leave.