A middle school in Washington state came under fire this week for allegedly planning to move an autistic student with special needs into a bathroom so he could be insulated from loud noises, according to reports.
Danielle Goodwin, the 11-year-old’s mother, said she discovered the alleged arrangement this past Monday while visiting Whatcom Middle School in Bellingham.
“The teacher informed us that he would be studying in the bathroom,” Goodwin told Q13 Fox.
Her son, Lucas, needed a quiet place to study because loud noises trigger his condition, she said.
“We were trying to find a quieter place for him to work,” she said.
Goodwin reportedly took a photo showing the boy clearly upset; his desk could be seen placed over a toilet and his chair near a sink. Goodwin alleged that the school also had placed a mat on the floor in case the boy needed to nap.
"I was stunned," Goodwin told KOMO News. “I was so shocked that I just took the picture because I didn't believe what I was seeing.”
Lucas said the arrangement had scared him and he “thought this was going to be where I was for the rest of the year.
Goodwin said she took her son out of school because the faculty provided no alternative to the arrangement.
“We are still waiting to hear from the district,” she said.
Amid outrage on social media, Superintendent Greg Baker released a statement explaining that limited funding for schools has created “limited space to meet students’ instructional and social-emotional needs.”
“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 a storage, not as an active restroom,” the statement read. “Again, my preliminary assessment is this idea was well-intentioned, but in the end we did not move forward with it.”
The Bellingham School District said in a separate statement that it continued to look into the matter and that the desk has been removed.
“[I]t appears that the restroom was set up as a possible separate quiet learning space, but no student was placed in there. The desk has been removed, and staff at the school are aware that the space should not be used for that purpose in the future,” district officials said.
Goodwin has acknowledged the desk’s removal but added: “that doesn’t help my son’s self-esteem, his embarrassment.”