A teachers union in the suburbs of Pittsburgh has failed in an attempt to prevent an autistic student with lung disease from using a faculty bathroom.
With no public discussion, the Steel Valley school board voted unanimously to reject a grievance filed by the Steel Valley Education Association to prevent the 10-year-old girl from using the faculty lavatory at Park Elementary School, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
The student, named Kaitlin, suffers from chronic lung disease, autism and pulmonary hypertension. A Post-Gazette image shows the girl in a special stroller.
The faculty bathroom she will now be able to use is convenient for the girl because it is the only bathroom on the school’s lower level.
The other bathroom option for Kaitlin — a student bathroom — involves going outside and somehow climbing a flight of stairs.
Kaitlin has trouble walking longer distances.
The girl’s mother, Tracy Montgomery, learned that the teachers union had filed the Feb. 13 grievance only by reading about it in the newspaper.
“I’m embarrassed for the teachers and appalled,” the mother told school board members.
Teachers union president Shawn McCallister argued that he hoped to find an outcome that would be “a better outcome for all involved.”
“They wanted to keep her stroller in a corner and use it to take her outside and upstairs,” Montgomery, the mother, told the Post-Gazette.
McCallister also whined that the Post-Gazette had found out about the grievance and informed the public. The grievance process is supposed to be confidential, he complained.
The teachers union grievance claimed that Kaitlin’s use of the faculty bathroom violated the union contract.
Eighteen teachers signed a petition accompanying the grievance. Two of those 18 teachers are special education teachers.
The relevant section of the union contract states: “The board will provide lunchroom, lounge, and lavatory facilities exclusively for employees use in accordance with its past practice except in the administration building the lunch room can be used by others except students,” the Post-Gazette noted on Thursday, prior to the school board meeting.
Diana Borges, the school district’s director of special services, noted that Park Elementary boasts no fewer than two other faculty bathrooms in other locations.
Local school district superintendent Ed Wehrer had already denied the grievance, noting that federal law requires the district to make reasonable accommodations for the 10-year-old girl.
A sad and poorly designed website promoting the Steel Valley teachers union demands “adequate, equitable, and sustainable public education funding so that ALL the children of Pennsylvania, not just the rich or privileged, receive the same high-quality education.”
“[P]ut children first in budget priorities,” the site demands.