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Parents fight back after a school converts bathroom to classroom

Early in the school year, a middle school boy from a nearby state was shocked and embarrassed to find that someone moved his desk into one of his school's restrooms. This was not an elaborate prank cooked up by his peers. It was an intentional learning space set up by his teacher to accommodate his need for quiet.

The boy's mother asked the school to provide a quiet place where her son could complete his schoolwork because he has autism and loud noises bother him. This prompted his teacher to place the boy's desk over a toilet and a camping mat on the bathroom floor for naps.

Good intentions may not be good enough

According to USA Today, the superintendent said that the teacher made these accommodations with good intentions and space limitations in mind. He added that other students do not use the restroom during the school day.

However, the news article reports that it was traumatizing for the boy to discover that his teacher expected him to learn in a bathroom, and the situation could have even been detrimental to his health. In addition to autism, the boy has pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcus (PANDAS). This autoimmune disorder could cause the boy to experience debilitating anxiety, mood swings, tics or other reactions when he comes into contact with strep bacteria.

Schools have responsibilities to their students

The boy's parents requested that their school district investigate the situation. They claim that the school's failure to provide reasonable accommodations may be a form of discrimination. They also view the teacher's actions as a human resources issue.

According to federal law, children who have disabilities have a right to receive a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment possible. This means that a child who has disabilities should be taught in a typical school classroom for as much of the day as possible. A child may attend class in a separate classroom for part or all of the day only if that arrangement is better for him or her.

The education that a child with special needs receives must also be appropriate. The school must provide the same quality of services to a child with special needs as it provides for typical students, and if the facilities are separate, they must be comparable.

It may be appropriate for parents to hold a school accountable if it fails to meet its legal obligations to the students. All children deserve a meaningful education, as well as the dignity of a decent learning environment.

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