Elementary school sued over ‘harmful’ bathroom policy

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SAN DIEGO – A mother filed a lawsuit against the San Diego Unified School District, a teacher and a former principal for a school’s restrictive restroom policy, which denied students the right to use the restroom during class.

Attorney Michael Jeandron said the suit stems from Loma Portal Elementary School’s bathroom policy, which he said has since been lifted.

“Beginning in the 2013-2014 academic school year, Loma Portal Elementary School Principal Glenda Gerde created and enforced a restrictive restroom access policy. Students who exceeded the allotted two passes would not be allowed to use the restroom. Some students were punished with detention if they exceeded their two restroom passes,” Jeandron said.

Thursday, Jeandron filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of his clients, Jamie Barkley and her 10-year-old daughter.  Barkley said the strict bathroom policy was both emotionally and physically painful for her daughter.

“I brought her to the ER, which the doctor suggested, and they did an X-ray and found that she had a blockage of fecal matter up to her ribcage and they had to go in with tubes in her rear end and kind of do an enema,” Barkley said.

Since the procedure, Barkley said her daughter has lost control of her bowel movements and leaks feces without realizing it at times.

“She doesn’t get to do all the things she used to do, like jump on a trampoline because it comes out and she’ll come to me and say, ‘Mom I had an accident. I don’t want to go on the trampoline anymore,’” Barkley said.

Her daughter is in physical therapy, essentially relearning to control her bowel movements.

Denying students the basic right to use the restroom violates California Education Code, which says restrooms must be maintained and accessible to K-12 students during school hours, Jeandron said.

“It’s time for the school district to take responsibility for the harm they caused while the policy was enacted,” Jeandron said.

Another parent, who did not want to be identified, reached out to FOX 5 to say his daughter has similar problems.

“I found out that my daughter had an infection Wednesday. It was caused by her coming home wet from school. Every time I picked her up she’d be wet or smelly," the parent said. "I asked her what was going on. She said the teacher wouldn’t let her go to the restroom."

His 7-year-old daughter, who has repeatedly been diagnosed with urinary tract infections, described what it is like to ask to use the restroom at school.

“I raise my hand and she says, ‘No, not right now,’ and then later on it’s too late,” the young girl said.

Barkley pulled her child out of Loma Portal Elementary, but said she has heard from other parents that the teachers have been better about letting students use the restroom.

A San Diego Unified School District representative said no one from Loma Portal Elementary could comment because it is spring break, but the safety and health of students is the school's top priority.

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  • Gemmateller

    My child doesnt want to use the bathrooms at his school. They have bad bathroom policies there . They kept my child from using the toilet. Said he couldn’t go until he finished his work. The bathrooms are worse I have ever been in. Third world countries have better toilets.

  • Jeff

    I swear to God if they try my child like that I would be happy to sue them too. Go ahead make my bank account fat is what I tell them..Fools

  • Katie

    I was so shocked to see this story. We know this family because they transferred to Bay Park. I have never seen a family come into the school, brand new and fit in the way they did. The little girl came in as a 4th grader and was voted class president her first week there. I can NOT believe the bathroom policies. If my child has to use the restroom, she has always been able to go! I can’t believe kids as old as 4th graders we’re peeing in their pants and no one did anything about it!! This makes me sick! The family moved away and Bay Park felt the loss. They we’re a gem to our school. I am so angry to know that this little girl is suffering inside and physically. Shame on the Principal for the abuse these kids suffered because of you. I hope you no longer work there, or anywhere!

  • Jerry

    What a stupid policy. I hope the SDUSD pays dearly for what they put these kids through. Denying children the time to take care of basic needs should never, ever be tolerated.

  • It's true

    Its true the bathrooms are horrible at SDUSd. My kid has been to two schools in the District. At the first you were only allowed to leave the class for restroom for two times A Month and had to sign a paper that said you were in the bathroom and the time. Now she refuses to go saying no toilet paper and an inch of pee water in floor. She comes out of school dying to go home to the bathroom and even refuses to drink water due to the condition of the bathrooms. Hope this lawsuit changes things for all kids here and not just the family in the article

  • Anonymous

    My son attended this school and my daughter still attends. The restrooms at this school are not dirty in the least. This was really a case of control by our ex-Principal (she was let go at the end of the school year in 2014) as well as another well known teacher. Like the article said, the Principal allowed teachers to give out bathroom passes. The kids earn Dolphin dollars and bathroom passes was something they could redeem their coupons for. It was very ridiculous. My kids complained about it, but by the time I was made aware of it, it was already being taken care of by the district. Our new Principal is the best and many families love her. No more long winded voice calls like we would get from our ex-Principal.

    • Katie

      It’s so sad and disturbing that “the girl” and many others from what it sounds like had to suffer from an abusive principal. This policy would never exist at BP, and if it did, I would pull my kids out immediately. I commend her for fighting for her daughter, they are such an incredible family. We we’re so sad to see them go.

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