A school district in Washington state is facing criticism for putting an autistic student’s desk in a bathroom stall after his mother said he needed a “quiet place” to do his best work.
Danielle Goodwin told CNN affiliate KOMO that she had discussed her 11-year-old son’s special needs with his teacher. But when they showed up at Whatcom Middle School in Bellingham, Washington, this week, they found is desk in a bathroom stall, Goodwin said.
“I was stunned,” she told the station Thursday. “I was so shocked I just took the picture because I didn’t believe what I was seeing.”
Goodwin did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on Saturday, but she shared the picture on Facebook, showing her son’s desk over the toilet, and his chair next to the bathroom sink.
She asked if he could work in the library and was told no, Goodwin said in the Facebook post. She was also told that “it was fine for him to be in there” because the school didn’t use the space as a bathroom.”
Her son also has an autoimmune disorder, Goodwin told KOMO, further highlighting why the suggestion he work in a bathroom was problematic.
“My son was humiliated, embarrassed, and disgusted at this inhumane suggestion that he work in a bathroom,” she said.
In a statement posted online, Bellingham Public School Superintendent Greg Baker said, “To our knowledge the stall had been used as storage, not as an active restroom.”
The idea of putting Goodwin’s son there was “an example of staff trying to seek a solution to temporarily repurpose a room,” Baker said.
No student spent any part of their school day in the bathroom, he said.
Due to limited state funding “schools often have limited space to meet students’ instructional and social-emotional needs,” he said.
As an example, Baker pointed out that the district has previously converted staff lounges into temporary classrooms and the principal’s office into meeting spaces to provide enough space for full-time kindergarten.
“Again, my preliminary assessment is this idea was well-intentioned, but in the end we did not move forward with it,” he said.
By Dakin Andone, CNN