Boy with autism was ‘embarrassed, disgusted’ by teacher moving desk to bathroom

Lucas, 11, who has autism, was allegedly given a desk in the bathroom of his Washington middle school. Mom Danielle Goodwin is sharing the photo, so people can "see the disgust on his face." (Photo: Courtesy of Danielle Goodwin).

An 11-year-old boy with autism was instructed to do his school work in the bathroom at his middle school, according to his mother.

On Wednesday, Danielle Goodwin of Washington, shared a Facebook photo of her son Lucas, who has autism and an autoimmune disorder, standing in the bathroom of Whatcom Middle School in Washington, where a desk had been placed over a toilet.

“My son has special needs and does best in a very quiet place,” the mom wrote. “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. 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 wrote, “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.”

The family’s attorney, Shannon McMinimee of Cedar Law, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that it was a teacher’s idea to place the 11-year-old boy in the bathroom.

Goodwin’s son had been struggling to transition from elementary to middle school, says McMinimee, so the family and the administration had been discussing potentially quiet areas for him to regroup, such as the library, a conference room, or an unused office.

These conversations had been positive and supportive, according to Goodwin, so on Sept. 16, the mom was surprised that her son’s desk had been relocated to a bathroom, which she observed during school drop-off.

Goodwin spoke to Lucas’ special-needs teacher, who Goodwin claims would not provide another workspace. So, the mom photographed her son in the bathroom and reached out to the superintendent of Bellingham Public Schools to make a formal complaint.

A spokesperson for Bellingham Public Schools tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “...The room in the photo is at Whatcom Middle School.”

The district “cannot share further details, about the child in the photo or about the Facebook post’s accuracy due to federal privacy law, since school districts cannot discuss details of the education programs of individual students.” However, the spokesperson directed Yahoo Lifestyle to an official statement from Superintendent Greg Baker.

“...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,” read the statement in part. “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.”

Continued Baker: “This current situation is an example of staff trying to seek a solution to temporarily repurpose a room. To our knowledge, the room had been used as storage, not as an active restroom. It didn’t turn out to be an idea that was used; no students spent time in the repurposed space as part of their school day.”

He added: “Again, my preliminary assessment is this idea was well-intentioned, but in the end we did not move forward with it.”

Goodwin’s son has stayed home from school since Sept. 16. If he returns, the mom’s lawyer McMinimee tells Yahoo Lifestyle, there are more questions to explore. “Can he go back there?” McMinimee says. “Or will he just be returning to the same teacher’s classroom?”

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