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Student Denied Bathroom Break Gets $1.25 Million

— January 30, 2017

Former Patrick Henry High School student gets $1.25 million for teacher’s refusal to let her use the restroom, forced into using bucket instead.

When nature calls, in this day and age, it is typically easy enough to find somewhere to answer, especially for a student who needs to use the restroom in a high school.  Even if in the middle of a lecture, most teachers would oblige, and the student likely has an abundance of on campus facilities to choose from.  The human body can only hold waste for so long, so not allowing students to excuse themselves and properly take care of business is utterly neglectful.


However, this simply wasn’t the case when a particular freshman at Patrick Henry High School in San Diego, California, attempted to leave class to use the restroom.  The young woman was told by her art teacher, Gonja Wolf, to urinate in a bucket in a supply room adjacent to the classroom instead.  She was then instructed to get rid of the waste by dumping the urine into a sink.  The student did as she was told, and would later be teased relentlessly by her classmates for the incident.  The girl was forced into changing schools twice in order to escape the torment, finally earning her diploma at a neighboring charter school.  She reports continued suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, often flashing back to that day and attempting to commit suicide twice.  These are issues she will likely need to work through the rest of her life.  In an effort to compensate, the girl has sued the school district.

Reports indicate the freshman needed to relieve herself during a 25 minute period in 2012 designed to allow students to focus on their studies.  Teachers were advised to limit restroom breaks during the session, but school officials claim they had expected staff to use their best judgment, not to eliminate the breaks entirely.  Wolf would later state that the supply bucket was purchased as an emergency means of using the bathroom should there be a security lock down.  She thought the school’s instructions indicated she was not allowed to let her class leave the room at all.  Several students reported hearing her tell the young woman to use the bucket, and Wolf would later state that she never meant to embarrass the girl by doing so.

Image Courtesy of Koin 6
Image Courtesy of Koin 6

Wolf was forced into taking a paid leave after officials discovered what had occurred.  She would never return.  Patrick Henry administrators told the remaining teachers they should not deny their students bathroom breaks.  

A jury ultimately awarded the girl, now 19 years old, $1.25 million.  Her attorney, Brian Watkins, states his client is just happy to have had her voice heard.  He says that although his client is still dealing with issues from that day, she is gainfully employed and doing relatively well.  Freshman year, the first year of high school, is a very impressionable year for any student.  This incident only intensified the girl’s anxiety during an already trying time in her life.  The district, on the other hand, believes the resolution is unfair and is currently appealing the decision.


Teen forced to pee in bucket in school awarded $1.25 million

High school student told to use a bucket rather than getting a bathroom break awarded $1.25M

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