Special needs students might require a few concessions in the classroom compared to their peers, but there’s no reason educators shouldn’t be willing and able to accommodate them. However, it’s clear some sensitivity training is needed at Whatcom Middle School in Bellingham, Washington after a teacher moved the desk of a student with autism to a bathroom so he could have a “quiet place” to work.
Danielle Goodwin, the mother of 11-year-old Lucas, shared the indignation she felt over her son’s experience on Facebook earlier this month, claiming that the adolescent was left feeling “humiliated, embarrassed, and disgusted” as a result.
“My son has special needs and does best in a very quiet place. This was his teacher’s solution…yes, that is my son in a bathroom. Yes, that is my son’s desk over a toilet,” she wrote. “She also provided a camping mat and pillow for him to nap….on the bathroom floor.”
Goodwin went on to reveal that she’d requested for her son, who has autism as well as the autoimmune disease PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections), would be able to work in a more suitable environment like the library but was refused.
“I asked if he could work in the library and she said no. She also said it was fine for him to be in there because they ‘don’t use it as a bathroom,'” Goodwin recalled.
“My son was humiliated, embarrassed, and disgusted at this inhumane suggestion that he work in a bathroom. I immediately took my son home and he will not be returning. When we got home he was throwing up from the anxiety. How is this best practice? How is this ok? We must do better.”
“It was traumatizing for him,” said Shannon McMinimee, an attorney representing the family. https://t.co/w8kSOhi3fs
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) September 25, 2019
While Goodwin has secured an attorney to take potential legal action against the school, Superintendent Greg Baker refused to issue an apology and instead seems to believe that the teacher made the right decision in moving Lucas to the restroom, according to an official statement released last week.
“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,” Baker wrote. “We are always looking for creative ways to best use our facilities to meet students’ needs. For example, throughout the years in order to provide full-time kindergarten, we have sometimes converted staff lounges into temporary classrooms and principals’ offices into meeting spaces.”
School defends putting autistic student’s desk in bathroom https://t.co/JXj8dqNirP
— The Mighty (@TheMightySite) September 22, 2019
Baker further claimed that the teacher’s decision was “an example of staff trying to seek a solution to temporarily repurpose a room” and that “no students spent time in the repurposed space as part of their school day.” Unfortunately, the photo from Goodwin seems to tell a much different story.