The school superintendent said the move was a "well-intentioned" solution to a limited space problem.

By Rachel DeSantis
September 25, 2019

A middle school student with autism was left feeling “sad, stressed [and] embarrassed” after he arrived on the first day of classes to find his desk in a restroom.

Danielle Goodwin said her son Lucas, 11, had been given a quiet learning place in Whatcom Middle School in Bellingham, Washington in order to help him focus, KOMO 4 TV reports.

What Goodwin didn’t expect was that the place would be a bathroom, with her son’s desk placed above a toilet and his chair beneath a sink.

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“I was so shocked I just took the picture because I didn’t even believe what I was seeing,” she said of a photo she snapped that went viral on social media. “It’s not an appropriate place for anyone, but especially for Lucas, who, with his PANDAS condition, can’t really be around germs. That’s something that can really affect his body.”

PANDAS, short for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections, can involve the sudden onset of OCD or tics in children following a strep infection such as strep throat or scarlet fever, according to Autism Speaks.

Goodwin told KOMO she discussed the situation with Lucas’ teacher, who told her that there were no other options — and who gave her son a camping mat so he could nap on the floor.

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“It smelled and just the thought of my son working his school day in a bathroom was disturbing to me,” Goodwin said.

Lucas was also upset by the location, telling the outlet, “I was like, how is this happening? How am I in the bathroom? Why?”

When contacted by PEOPLE for comment, Bellingham Public Schools pointed to Superintendent Greg Baker’s statement from Friday, which did not reference Lucas specifically due to privacy concerns but came in regards to a “recent post on social media which has made some news reports.”

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In the statement on Bellingham Public Schools’ website, Baker said that Whatcom Middle School has been dealing with limited space issues, and that the bathroom had previously been used as storage, and not as an active restroom.

“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. “We are always looking for creative ways to best use our facilities to meet students’ needs.”

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He continued, “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 storage, not as an active restroom … It didn’t turn out to be an idea that was used; no students spent time in the repurposed space as part of their school day.”

A spokesperson for Bellingham Public Schools tells PEOPLE no student used a restroom as a classroom.

Baker ultimately noted that the idea was “well-intentioned,” but “we did not move forward with it.”

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