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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