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Boy with autism is 'traumatized' after his desk was put in a bathroom

The school says they are struggling with space issues.
/ Source: TODAY

When Danielle Goodwin requested a quiet space for her son, Lucas, 11, to work with his aide at Whatcom Middle School in Washington state, she was picturing an empty office.

Instead, the sixth grader, who has autism, was placed in a bathroom with an over-the-toilet desk.

Danielle Goodwin's son, Lucas, who has autism was given a desk in a school bathroom.
Danielle Goodwin's son, Lucas, who has autism was given a desk in a school bathroom.Courtesy of Danielle Goodwin

Goodwin claims Lucas was given a camping mat and a pillow to nap on the floor. (Lucas suffers from an autoimmune disorder that makes him tired.)

After staff allegedly refused to move Lucas to the library, Goodwin took him home. He has not been back since Monday.

The family filed a formal complaint on Thursday.

Goodwin’s attorney, Shannon McMinimee, told TODAY Parents that Lucas is “traumatized” and the ordeal has aggravated his autoimmune disorder.

“It’s terribly sad to know that this bathroom was within Lucas’ classroom, so all of his peers knew,” McMinimee said. “Middle school is hard enough. Being the boy put in the bathroom is humiliating.”

McMinimee, who has been practicing education and civil rights law for more than 15 years, added that she has “never observed a more blatant act of disability discrimination aimed at a child.”

Goodwin shared a now viral photo of the accommodations on Facebook and wrote that Lucas was “humiliated, embarrassed and disgusted."

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In a statement on Bellingham Public Schools’ website Superintendent Greg Baker alluded to the incident.

“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,” he wrote.

Baker added that to his knowledge, the bathroom in question had been used as storage and not an active restroom.

Dana Smith, a communications manager for the district, told TODAY Parents that student safety is their number one priority. “We care so much about all of our kids,” she said. “Everything we do all day, every day is for them.”

McMinimee is not satisfied with the school’s response.

“It was disheartening for Danielle that the Superintendent chose to issue a media statement before returning an email from her,” she said. “But it was and is really sad that no one has reached out to see how Lucas is doing."