A former student of a San Diego-area high school who sued the San Diego School Unified School District (SDUSD) after she was forced by a teacher to urinate in a bucket when she asked to go to the bathroom will receive a $1.25 million payout from the school district, according to a published report.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Wednesday that a Superior Court jury had decided in favor of the former student at Patrick Henry High School. The student sued the SDUSD and the teacher involved in the incident, saying it caused her much grief at school. The teen was a victim of rumors, depression and a suicide attempt following the humiliating ordeal, the UT said.
The incident happened at Patrick Henry High School on Wandermere Drive in late February 2012, during a 25-minute advisory period.
When the then-14-year-old student asked her teacher if she could take an urgent break to use the restroom, the teacher denied the teen’s request and told her she could instead urinate in a bucket in a storage room in the back of the classroom – or not go at all. The teen was told that after she was done, she could pour the contents of the bucket in a sink in the storage room.
In March 2012, the student’s family attorney, Brian Watkins, filed a claim against the SDUSD. He said the incident was traumatic for the student. He would seek to ensure that something like this never happened again at a school in San Diego.
The teacher had never been involved in any type of disciplinary incident prior to this, Watkins and the SDUSD said at the time. The teacher was placed on administrative leave while the school district investigated the incident. She never returned to campus, the report said.
According to the UT, the school district denied the former student’s initial claim of $25,000. Watkins said the former student – who is now 19 – took the stand and told the jury the “embarrassing” story and how the ordeal has impacted her life.
Ultimately, the jury ruled in her favor.
The UT said the SDUSD was not pleased with the verdict and may consider appealing.
"We, of course, are disappointed and will be considering in the next few weeks whether or not to appeal,” the district's General Counsel, Andra Donovan, told NBC 7 on Thursday.
SDUSD attorneys said the teacher had a “lapse of judgment” and never sought to humiliate the student. She was under the impression that there was a strict policy in place at the school that did not allow students to take bathroom breaks, the UT reported, especially during a short, 25-minute class.
To that end, attorneys for the district said the teacher had purchased a bucket to comply with the policy and to serve as an emergency toilet in case of a lockdown on campus. The teacher herself had even used it, the teacher’s attorney said.
Watkins said the teen was teased after the incident and transferred schools twice. But widespread media coverage of the incident continued and, at one point, the girl tried to take her own life. Eventually, she went on to graduate from a charter school.
The UT said the jury awarded the teen $1.25 million in damages and $41,000 to cover past and current medical expenses. Five years later, the teen is still in therapy due to the incident, Watkins said.