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January 21, 2014 > Letter to the Editor: Allow students to use the restroom when they have the urge

Letter to the Editor: Allow students to use the restroom when they have the urge

I am a credentialed special education teacher, a mother of a special needs child, and an advocate for other children with special needs. I recently worked for four months as a special education teacher for the New Haven Unified School District at Cesar Chavez Middle School in Union City. I loved my job; I especially enjoyed helping those students with special needs that for some reason were placed in special day classes for the wrong reasons, those who were bullied and those who were trying very hard to be mainstreamed.

At the risk of being disciplined I brought some concerns to the school assistant principals about studentsÕ complaints, such as bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, and violations of the safeguard rights. I rebelled against some unfair rules that the school has; one of those rules is denying students the right to use the bathroom during class time. My co-workers told me that this is what I should say when students asked me if they could use the restroom: ÒAre you willing to pay me back ten minutes of your time during break, lunch, or after school?Ó On one occasion, while observing my mentor teacher teaching her class, I heard a student ask permission to use the restroom and the teacher responded with the standard line. Obviously the student answered ÒnoÓ and they held their urge until recess or lunch time.

I am not a doctor but I believe it is not healthy for children to hold their bladder when they are feeling the urge; therefore, on some occasions I would allow some of my students to go to the bathroom. But as a new employee and not wanting to get in trouble for breaking the school rules, I would first make sure that there were no other teachers around, and once the hallway was clear I would let the kids leave the classroom. LetÕs not forget that these are Special Education children and some have physical and emotional challenges, and they may not have the same ability to control their bladder or bowels as everybody else. At an IEP meeting a parent of one of my students brought out the issue of her son developing a bladder infection, and the assistant principal responded that she needs to bring a doctorÕs note in order to let him use the restroom.

Please join me to end the denying of using the restrooms during class time. By signing this petition we send a message to Mireya Casares, Cesar Chavez Principal; Arlando Smith, Co-Interim Superintendent at New Haven Unified School District; District Board member Linda Canlas and other school officials to take a look at their bathroom rules and stop telling their students that they can only use the bathrooms if they are willing to pay back ten minutes during their special time. When nature calls, it calls without checking if it is recess time, lunch time, or after school hours. Many of our special education students cannot wait too long, and they should be able to go when they need to.

To sign the petition, go to Thanks for helping our special needs students, and letÕs send a message to other schools that may have this nonsense rule.

Marielena Gaona-Mendoza
East Palo Alto

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