Phillip Wiggins, 10, is an albino and a student at Allamanda Elementary School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
“He has no pigment in his skin and very little pigment in his eyes,” the boy’s mother, Lucille Wiggins, explained to a WPTV reporter.
Consequently, he must wear special sunscreen and special, thick glasses to help him see.
“I usually can’t see, like this way, this way,” the fourth-grader explains in an interview, pivoting his head from side to side. “In fact, I can barely see back there,” he adds, pointing to a wall perhaps four feet behind him.
This potentially important mitigating factor did not stop Allamanda Elementary’s assistant principal from suspending him after he refused to admit to taking pictures inside a bathroom on a school-related field trip.
There are two sides to this fracas.
According to Wiggins, he is the victim of a bullying incident.
“I had my camera in my pocket. It fell out, and when I was about to put it in my pocket some kid pushed me up against the stall. My feet slipped under me and I was trying to pick myself back up. He started laughing and he left the room,” Wiggins told WPTV. “The teacher only saw what was happening for two seconds and heard the laughing. She supposed I was trying to take a picture.”
The teacher tells a different story, however. According to disciplinary records obtained by WPTV, the teacher “witnessed Phillip standing near a bathroom stall with his camera over the wall of the stall and in the process of taking a picture of another student using the bathroom.”
Whatever the case, the assistant principal allegedly threatened to call Florida’s Department of Children and Families on the boy — without bothering to contact his mother (a single parent).
“Because he is disabled, he is entitled to additional due process protections,” argued Dena Sisk Foman, an attorney the boy’s mother has since hired.
The Palm Beach County School District had no comment for WPTV.
Ironically enough, the Department of Children and Families may investigate the way school officials treated Wiggins.
In the meantime, the attorney for the family is trying to place the boy in a private school for next year.