Our network

An autistic student needed a quiet place to work. His desk was put in a bathroom stall |

Title (Max 100 Characters)

An autistic student needed a quiet place to work. His desk was put in a bathroom stall

(CNN) — 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 his desk in a bathroom stall, Goodwin said.

“I was stunned,” Goodwin told the station Thursday. “I was so shocked I just took the picture because I didn’t believe what I was seeing.”

Goodwin shared the picture on Facebook,
showing her son’s desk over the toilet, and his chair next to the bathroom

Goodwin’s son had just transitioned from
elementary school, where he was allowed to work in a library, said Shannon
McMinimee, an attorney for the Goodwin family.

“I can’t believe that there was anybody
that thought this was a good idea,” McMinimee told CNN. “There’s a
lot of different ways you can accommodate students with disabilities without
humiliating them.”

Goodwin asked if her son 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

McMinimee said there had never been an issue
before with the boy having access to a library or other suitable quiet place to
work. It had been a longstanding accommodation for him, 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.

McMinimee said the school was notified Friday
that she’s representing the family. She has started 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, the attorney

The first and best thing the school could do
is call and apologize to the family, she said.

The attorney said she’s had experience in
education law for 15 years.

“This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever
seen a school district do,” McMinimee said.

CNN’s Artemis
Moshtaghian and Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.

Downtown Deals