The family of a third-grader who was allegedly forced by a teacher to urinate in front of his classmates into a trash can before being placed in garbage bags by another employee announced their intention on Monday to pursue legal action against the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The action stems from an incident from last November that began when the 8-year-old boy had to use the bathroom while in his class at Manhattan Place Elementary School in the Gramercy Park area of South Los Angeles, according to the family's attorney, Toni Jaramilla.
The boy asked the teacher if he could go to the restroom, but his request was ignored, Jaramilla told reporters at a news conference on Monday morning.
“Barely able to hold it in, [he] walked up to the teacher to get his attention and he asked again if he could go to the restroom, because he couldn’t hold it much longer," she said. "The teacher refused, in violation of LAUSD policy."
Instead, the teacher told the boy to urinate in a trash can in the classroom that was plainly visible to his classmates, according to the attorney.
The student, who is not being identified, complied with the teacher's instructions, said his mother, Sonia Mongol.
“We’re here on behalf of our son, who has been humiliated and has had to endure pain and suffering as a result of his teacher having him urinate in front of his whole entire class, and exposing himself in the process," Mongol said at the news conference. “He was only doing what the teacher told him to do, what any child would do in that situation.”
The boy's clothes ended up partially soaked in urine and he was sent to the nurse's office.
The nurse, however, never arrived and no one at the school called his parents to report what happened, according to Jaramilla. He eventually returned to the classroom, forced to wear the wet clothing for the remainder of the school day.
Later, the boy went to an after-school enrichment program called L.A.'s Best, where he sought help from an employee. The student explained that he had urinated on himself, at which point the adult placed two garbage bags over him, according to Mongol.
Jaramilla emphasized again that the boy's parents were never informed of the incident.
“Had [the parents] been called, they could have picked him up early, they could have brought him fresh clothing.” Jaramilla said. “He needed to be treated with compassion and kindness, and not with punishment and disregard and humiliation.”
Since then, the boy has been bullied and taunted by classmates; he has since been taken out of the school and transferred to another campus.
The boy has suffered trauma due to the incident, and it appears to be having a lasting effect on him, his mother said.
“All he has faced at the school is humiliation, is pain and suffering. And we don’t understand," Mongol said. “Manhattan elementary school has given us the impression that our child is garbage. No child should have to endure this.”
The family is filing a tort claim so the district will investigate, according to Jaramilla. The legal action marks the first step toward a potential lawsuit against LAUSD, the second-largest school district in the country.
District officials earlier indicated they had contacted law enforcement to investigate the incident as a possible case of child abuse, Jaramilla said. It was unclear, however, if any action was taken as a result.
“There supposedly is a criminal investigation being conducted, yet no one from law enforcement has contacted his family, and no one from LAUSD has told any of us the status of the teacher or the employee from the after school program," she said.
The family doesn't know if either was terminated or disciplined, the attorney added.
A spokesperson for the district said officials alerted law enforcement after the allegation was made and they are cooperating with the investigation. LAUSD is also conducting an administration, the spokesperson said in a statement.
The district released an updated statement Monday evening:
“We are alarmed by reports of the events that occurred at Manhattan Place Elementary School. We expect our school site employees to oversee the safety and well-being of our students at all times. If true, this alleged behavior by a school employee directly contradicts the mission and values of the Los Angeles Unified School District. We are conducting an administrative investigation in collaboration with law enforcement. Following the conclusion of the investigation, we will take appropriate corrective action.”
Jaramilla insists there's no defense, as school policy makes it clear that restrooms must be available to serve students throughout the day.
The family wants to hold everyone involved in the incident accountable with the hope it will lead to positive changes in the school system, including stronger enforcement of LAUSD's own policies.
"When something or someone harms any of our children, especially in a school setting, it affects all of us. It affects our community,” Jaramilla said.
KTLA's Jennifer Thang contributed to this story.