The mother of an Alexandria first-grader yesterday asked the school system to discipline a teacher she says required her son to clean feces off the floor of a school restroom.
Novelett Henry said that when her son Kevin, 6, told her that he had cleaned up "poop" in a restroom at Barrett Elementary School sometime in December, she immediately called the school.
School officials initially told her that Kevin was mistaken, she said, but they called her back later the same day and said that Kevin had volunteered to clean the restroom on four separate occasions last fall. Her attorney, Ted J. Williams, said school officials also confirmed to him that Kevin had cleaned up excrement.
Alexandria public schools spokeswoman Barbara Hunter said she could not comment on the specific allegations because the school system is still trying to determine exactly what happened.
"Clearly a teacher should never ask a child to clean up bodily fluids," Hunter said. Even if Kevin volunteered, she said, "it's highly inappropriate for a child to clean up feces."
Kevin will be transferred to another teacher's class on Monday at his mother's request, Williams said.
According to Henry, her son said that another child found the feces in the restroom and the teacher accused Kevin of putting it there. When Kevin denied it, Henry said, the teacher gave him paper towels and ordered him to clean up the excrement. Henry said she does not believe her child volunteered to do the cleaning or exaggerated the story. "I raised my son to tell the truth," she said.
Williams said Henry wants to know what disciplinary actions are taken against the teacher, whom he would not identify.
"I contacted the principal and I was told . . . the principal informed the instructor that this was not to happen again. We do not believe that is an appropriate punishment," Williams said. Usually, school systems will not discuss personnel actions.
Henry said Kevin, who is her third child, had been happy at Barrett Elementary before the incident. "He loved his kindergarten teacher," said Henry, who works at a local hotel.
Outside educators said that many schools require students to clean up if they have damaged school property in some way, but they said that principle is rarely--if ever--extended to toilets.
"This is reprehensible. It's demeaning. . . . It should not have happened to any child in any institution," Williams said.