Family Matters: Taking Paternity Leave at Lane Tech

By Aaron Cohen, Assistant Editor

When Computer Science teacher Daniel Stone welcomed a new son into his immediate family, he recognized the responsibilities and challenges that being a father would bring. “It’s really a huge life change. I had to make sure I could fully commit to helping my wife and make my home life my number one priority during that time.”  Stone turned to paid parental leave to help him balance work and home.

According to the Chicago Public Schools Policy Manual, paid parental leave, including both maternal and paternity leave, can be granted to any CPS employee who has been employed for at least 12 months and worked 1,250 hours in that time. The leave can be taken on 10 consecutive work days and can only be used within a year of their child’s birth.

Because the days need to be taken consecutively, some teachers like Mr. Gonzalez opted to simply take sick days off when his daughter was born in December. “My students weren’t necessarily in a place where I could leave them for two weeks straight plus winter break,” Gonzalez said. “I would have been doing them a disservice by leaving and not being present in the classroom.” 

In the United States paid paternity leave is not as widely offered as paid maternity leave. According to a fact sheet published by the National Partnership for Women and Families, Only 9% of work sites in the United States offer paid paternity leave to all male employees. Data from the Department of Labor shows that only 13% of men who took parental leave received pay compared with 21% for women.

Social stigma along with outdated workplace norms about male breadwinners may account for this disparity. 

Caroline Strachan, founder of female empowerment initiative Women at Work, explained the stigma in a Yahoo Finance article: “As it’s such early days for shared parental leave, we hear men are concerned that their leaders won’t think they’re taking their career seriously. Children tend to arrive during that critical stage in a career when you need to be ready to press the ‘go button’ and you can’t do that if you’re on leave – or so men and companies think.”

P.E teacher Mr. Bobek acknowledged that a societal stigma associated with paternity may exist but that it didn’t stop him from taking six days of leave when his daughter was born in October. “Regardless of what people might say, I wanted to be there for my family and to be an active parent in those challenging days,” Bobek said. 

Coupled with the issue of paid parental leave is the issue of the number of paid sick days that CPS employees have. The CPS policy manual states that sick days are earned by an employee at a rate of one day per full month worked and are maintained in the employee’s Sick Day Bank. Under the recently negotiated Chicago Teachers Union contract, CTU members can now accrue more than six times as many unused sick days as before, from 40 to 244. 

Mr. Bobek endorsed this increase, adding that the new policy would make it easier for teachers to take time off in an emergency while still getting paid. “If you’re in a situation where you need to be at home for an extended period of time, having a greater number of paid sick days allows for parents to continue supporting their families while also taking care of their own health as well as their family’s,” Bobek said. “It seems like a win-win.”  

While taking paternity leave can be difficult, Mr. Stone praised his computer science colleagues and the Lane school community for supporting him during that difficult time.  “I cannot put into words how much I trust I’ve got in my colleagues,” Stone said. “Across the board, everyone  in my department stepped up to help out big time. It feels like that’s what kind of environment we have at Lane generally.”