"Sad, stressed, embarrassed," said the sixth-grader. "I was like how is this happening? How am I in the bathroom? Why?"
When they're dropping their kids off at school, parents hope that their children are entering an environment that's safe and welcoming for them. But when one mother made a special request to the school for her 11-year-old son, she was appalled by their "inhumane suggestion".
Danielle Goodwin asked Whatcom Middle School in Washington state if they could provide a quiet place for her 11-year-old son, Lucas who has autism. What they ended up giving the little boy was a place in a bathroom with an over-the-toilet desk and a camping mat on the floor.
Disheartened by the humiliation her son felt, the mother wrote on Facebook, "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 also provided a camping mat and pillow for him to nap....on the bathroom floor."
Apart from dealing with the challenges of middle school, Lucas also has to deal with the symptoms that come from his autoimmune disorder, which makes him tired, as reported by Today. Lucas was described to work best in a quiet environment, but this wasn't the kind of quiet place that her mother hoped for.
Danielle added, "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'."
Not only was the mother shocked, but even her sixth-grader son was traumatized by it. "Sad, stressed, embarrassed," said Lucas about how he felt, as reported by KMOV. "I was like how is this happening? How am I in the bathroom? Why?"
It's not the right place for any student to be working at, but it was worse for Lucas who shouldn't be exposed to germs because of the condition he had. "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,” Danielle said. "It smelled and just the thought of my son working his school day away in a bathroom was disturbing to me."
The mother also added in her post, "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."
To make matters worse for Lucas, he had to deal with his entire class knowing where his desk was relocated. Danielle's attorney, Shannon McMinimee said, "It’s terribly sad to know that this bathroom was within Lucas’ classroom, so all of his peers knew. Middle school is hard enough. Being the boy put in the bathroom is humiliating."
After 15 years of practicing education and civil rights law, the attorney mentioned that she has never before "observed a more blatant act of disability discrimination aimed at a child." She also mentioned that the young boy's autoimmune disorder was aggravated after being "traumatized" by the incident.
When a spokeswoman from the Bellingham Public School spoke to KOMO News, she said, "I can tell you that we are aware of the situation, and that we have taken immediate steps to remove the desk depicted in the photo and ensure that this space is not used as a learning space. While we aren’t able to share specific details about our students, we can tell you that keeping our students safe and engaged in learning are our top priorities. We received a complaint this morning, and we are continuing to investigate."