Evergreen teacher draws ire over bathroom break system

Children earn play money to pay for trip to restroom

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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Evergreen Public Schools is investigating two parent complaints about a third-grade teacher at Mill Plain Elementary School after two girls wet their pants in class May 16.

The teacher requires students who need to use the bathroom during class time to first pay $50 in play money. Students earn the play money by turning in assignments on time and through other positive work, district spokeswoman Gail Spolar said. Students do not have to use the play money to use the restroom at several breaks during the school day, including before school, recess, lunch and on the way to P.E., Spolar said.

She said children without enough money in their accounts, and students who have an emergency, are not denied a bathroom break.

On the afternoon of May 16, Jasmine Al-Ayadhi called the school to complain after her daughter came home wearing clothing provided by the school because her daughter had wet herself in class. Monday afternoon a second mother, Merchon Ortega, also called the school to complain that her daughter had come home in different clothes and had wet herself.

Al-Ayadhi and Ortega could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Other parents of children in the class, including Lindsey Ihrig, said teachers let students use the restroom if they can't hold it.

The class is taught by two teachers; one teaches in the morning and the other teaches in the afternoon. The district is investigating whether the girls asked the afternoon teacher if they could use the restroom, Spolar said. Spolar added that the two teachers had been using the play-money rewards system all year.

Twice a year, students can use their play money to buy school supplies, including pencils and coloring books, at the midyear auction and the end-of-the-year auction.

The parents who complained told TV reporters that students also use the fake money to purchase popcorn and pizza, making them decide between spending the money on goodies or bathroom breaks. However, the district said that is incorrect.

"Anytime there was popcorn or pizza dispensed in the classroom, the children never were charged for that," Spolar said.

The popcorn and the pizza rewards are given to all the students who demonstrate character traits valued by the school, including respect and having a positive attitude, Ihrig said. She said those rewards are handed out several times a year.

"The play money has nothing to do with that," Ihrig said.

As of Tuesday, the teacher had not been suspended.