U.S. school faces backlash after boy with autism told to work in bathroom

A school in Washington state is facing harsh backlash for telling an 11-year-old boy with autism to work in a bathroom after his mother told teachers he works best in a “quiet place.”

According to a KOMO News report, Michelle Goodwin had spoken with her son Lucas’ teachers about making accommodations, but when they arrived at Whatcom Middle School on Monday, the solution was for him to work in the bathroom.

Goodwin took to Facebook to share her frustration.


“This was his teacher’s solution… yes, that is my son in a bathroom. Yes, that is my son’s desk over a toilet,” Goodwin wrote.

Goodwin said the teacher had also provided a camping mat and a pillow for a nap “on the bathroom floor.”

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“I asked if he could work in the library and she said no,” the post reads. “She also said it was fine for him to be in there because they ‘don’t use it as a bathroom.'”

“My son was humiliated, embarrassed and disgusted at this inhumane suggestion that he work in a bathroom.”

Goodwin says she immediately took her son home and that he will “not be returning.”

“When he got home he was throwing up from the anxiety,” the post reads. “How is this best practice? How is this ok? We must do better.”

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In an interview with KOMO News, Goodwin said she was “shocked.”

“I just took the picture because I didn’t believe what I was seeing,” she said.

“It’s not an appropriate place for anyone, but especially for Lucas with his PANDAS condition (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections), he can’t be around germs. That’s something that can really affect his body.

“It smelled, and just the thought of my son working his school day away in a bathroom was disturbing to me.”

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Lucas told KOMO News he felt “sad, stressed and embarrassed.”

“I was like, how is this happening? How am I in the bathroom?” he said. “Why?”

In a statement issued Friday, Bellingham Public Schools superintendent Greg Baker said the situation was an example of staff “trying to seek a temporary solution to temporarily repurpose a room.”

“We are all probably aware that state funding for schools is limited, particularly with regards to construction, and thus schools often have limited space to meet students’ instructional and social-emotional needs,” the statement reads. “We are always looking for creative ways to best use our facilities to meet students’ needs.”

Baker said that to their knowledge, the bathroom stall had been used as storage, “not an active restroom.”

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He said his “preliminary assessment” of the incident was that the idea appeared to be “well-intentioned,” but that in the end, they “did not move forward with it.”

“Our staff are incredibly skilled, compassionate and dedicated,” he wrote. “They give of themselves every day to make our community better by serving all children, no matter what their individual needs are.

“Like all of us, including myself, our staff are not perfect. Together we show who we are in situations like this: we take responsibility, we learn and we commit to doing better.”

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Shannon McMinimee, an attorney for the family told CNN she “can’t believe that there was anybody that thought this was a good idea.”

“There’s a lot of different ways you can accommodate students with disabilities without humiliating them,” she said.

She says the first and best thing the school could do is call and apologize to the family.

According to the CNN report, McMinimee has begun the process of requesting changes to the boy’s special education plan and has requested a tort claim, a mandatory first step before a lawsuit can be filed in Washington.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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