NJ teachers union backs bereavement for pregnancy loss, abortion


The state’s largest teachers’ union supports adding benefits to parents struggling with pregnancy loss, infertility, adoption challenges, and other setbacks that affect future parents.

After being developed by the New Jersey nonprofit Start Healing Together, sample contract language amending bereavement benefits has been approved by the New Jersey Education Association.

This group provides information, guidance and support to reduce stigma to help teachers and educators experiencing miscarriage and infertility.

The advocacy began after the devastating loss of its founder, Jackie Mancinelli of Washington Township, Gloucester County.

In 2014, Mancinelli said she and her husband were thrilled to start a family. Miscarriage was never in the wheelhouse of thoughts swirling in her mind, she said. But then her first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.

and became pregnant the following year. Mancinelli gave birth to her son Richard at nearly 34 weeks. After giving birth in an emergency in 2016, baby Richard died shortly after birth.

It was another devastating loss for Mancinelli and her husband, devastating physically, emotionally and spiritually.

In addition to coping with her loss and grief, she served as a high school English teacher at Eastern High School in Voorhees, met her teacher friends and students who were part of her pregnancy journey, and shared her experiences with Richard’s loss. was also sad. Of her, Mancinelli said.

What are the goals of Start Healing Together?

After working with the teachers’ union, Mancinelli realized that certain support services didn’t exist yet.

“So I started Start Healing Together as a way to support other educators like me who are in the same position and are really advocating for their rights in the workplace,” says Mancinelli.

Teaching is a female-dominated profession. Miscarriages are her one in four. She said there is a high percentage of educators who have had miscarriages but suffer in silence.

Start Healing Together focuses on the language of negotiation contracts. That means updating contract bereavement leave to focus on including all types of miscarriages from chemical to baby loss, all types of fertility treatments, and adoption law.

“It’s really important that the words are black and white in the contract so that certain days aren’t taken away with sick leave or personal leave. Bereavement is a bereavement because these are legitimate losses that need time to grieve.” You can be part of the process,” Mancinelli said.

In memory of Richard Mancinelli (Photo credit: Apiary Photography)

In memory of Richard Mancinelli (Photo credit: Apiary Photography)

What else do nonprofits work to do?

The nonprofit is working on an individualized educator plan. For example, if you have an educator undergoing fertility treatment, ensure that union representatives and administrators are trained and fully educated about infertility, what it is, and how to support it in the workplace.

An individual plan will be developed for the educator based on their needs, their workplace and the support they need during fertility treatment, she said.

If an educator who has experienced a miscarriage is currently returning to work, Start Healing Together will create a personalized support plan to ensure they are supported when they return. Mancinelli added that the organization will make sure that students, administrators and colleagues are prepared if anything makes them anxious or nervous.

What is the language of the new bereavement leave agreement?

In July 2022, Mancinelli attended the National Education Association Congress to propose new language for bereavement leave.

The language was approved and passed with 84% of the votes in favor.

language of bereavement leave

Employees or pregnant parents, spouses who have suffered a miscarriage (including but not limited to chemical abortion, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, miscarriage, dismissal for medical reasons (TFMR), stillbirth, neonatal loss) spouse, and/or partner, are eligible for bereavement leave. Employees or pregnant parents, spouses, and/or partners who have undergone unsuccessful fertility treatments (including but not limited to intrauterine insemination (IUI), assisted reproductive technology (ART), and loss of surrogacy) are eligible for bereavement leave. Employees, spouses, and/or partners who are unsuccessfully adopted are eligible for bereavement leave.

NEW JERSEY ONLY: The New Jersey Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research and Dignity Act states that miscarriages after 20 weeks meet the standard for which death statistics must be reported within the state.

So the term can be used to “define a child” when discussing bereavement leave.This could change in the US in the near future if the SHINE for Autumn Act passes the Senate. there is.

In May 2023, the NEA will roll out this language as an approved contract language to all 50 states.

The NJEA also approves this language. It is in the collective bargaining agreements given to all community groups.

“We currently have close to 30 locations working to incorporate this language into our contracts, not just in Canada and the UK,” says Mancinelli.

It was first ratified in Oklahoma in September.

Mancinelli is currently working with educators in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California.

Jackie Mancinelli (Photo credit: Apiary Photography)

Jackie Mancinelli (Photo credit: Apiary Photography)

What did she find in this “lost community”?

Mancinelli, who is also the New Jersey ambassador for Count the Kick, an evidence-based stillbirth prevention campaign, said these parents in the loss community are some of the strongest parents you’ll ever meet.

“They are an incredible inspiration. We want you to know that, you know his story, and how much he continues to be loved.

Mancinelli continues to work with her vice president, George Kemmery, who is also an English teacher at Eastern High School.

When she and her husband lost baby Richard, she said Kemmery was an incredible support to the couple both inside and outside of work.

Start Healing Together accepts donations on its website. You can also learn more or donate on our social media pages on Instagram and Facebook.

After losing two children, one to a miscarriage and one to a newborn, Mancinelli and her husband are the proud parents of two “rainbow” daughters, ages 3 and 5.

She said rainbows come after losses, just like rainbows come after storms.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com.

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