A former San Diego high school student who was forced to urinate in a bucket in class after she asked to go to the restroom has been awarded $1.25 million by a jury.
A San Diego County Superior Court jury sided with the former Patrick Henry High School student in the 2012 incident, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Wednesday. The San Diego Unified School District was ordered to pay more than $1.25 million in damages.
The student filed the lawsuit after a teacher denied her request to go to the bathroom during a 25-minute advisory class. The teacher showed her to a supply room where she privately peed in a bucket.
Afterward, the girl argued that she endured gossip, depression and a suicide attempt, the newspaper reported. News crews also showed up at her home.
The school district's attorney argued that the teacher, Gonja Wolf, misunderstood a school policy, thinking there was a strict rule barring bathroom breaks during the short advisory classes. She never intended to embarrass her student, the district's and the teacher's attorneys argued, according to the newspaper.
Wolf allegedly bought a bucket for use as a toilet in case of a lockdown at the school. Her attorney said Wolf had even used the bucket herself while working late, the Union-Tribune reported.
The school district's board denied the girl's initial claim, which asked for $25,000. Then she sued.
“Something like this never should have happened to a 14-year-old girl just entering high school,” said her attorney Brian Watkins, according to the Union-Tribune. “She took the stand and told a really embarrassing story, she told the jury how this has affected her life and how she is still working through issues.”
Teachers now know not to deny students trips to the bathroom, the Union-Tribune reported.
The school district is disappointed in the jury's decision and will consider whether to appeal, its attorney said.
The former student, now 19, ended up transferring to two other schools before finally graduating from a charter school. She has a job, but still attends therapy sessions for post-traumatic stress, Watkins said.
The family was awarded $41,000 for medical bills, KTLA sister station KSWB reported.