Allegations about insufficient restroom facilities, children urinating on themselves and diaper use at Monte Vista Elementary School were outlined by parents in a formal complaint made against the Glendale Unified School District earlier this month.
The complaint, filed March 7 and rigorously disputed by district personnel, claims students in the school’s dual-immersion Korean Foreign Languages Academy of Glendale, or FLAG, program have been impacted the most.
Several classrooms are listed as providing inadequate restroom access due to distance, size specifications and a lack of stalls.
“GUSD takes parent feedback very seriously, especially when it pertains to student health and wellness,” Kristine Nam, the district’s communications director, said in an email. “When school or district administrators are notified of a problem, we work swiftly to implement every possible solution to ensure student safety and well-being.”
The allegations, made in what’s called a Williams complaint, allows the district 60 days to resolve the issue and complete a written report, unless both sides agree to an extension.
At the center of the complaint is bathroom access for all students, but particularly for FLAG students as seven of the school’s 12 FLAG classes are located in bungalows that do not include permanent bathroom fixtures.
The complaint alleges FLAG kindergartners are most affected.
Parents contend the school is in violation of Title 5 of the California Department of Education code of regulations regarding kindergarten classrooms.
The complaint states the school’s FLAG kindergartners “are denied access to height-appropriate toilets” and must walk long distances to get to restrooms “not self-contained within the classroom or within the kindergarten complex.”
FLAG kindergartners who attend classes in the school’s center rear bungalows use restrooms intended for older students, according to the complaint.
The complaint states girls “are reluctant to use such toilets for fear of falling in” since there are no age-appropriate seats.
To access those restrooms, the complaint states unsupervised “female students are forced to traverse quite a distance across campus and climb two large flights of exterior stairs.”
The experience is perhaps more humiliating for kindergarten boys who use restrooms designed for older children, and many of them wear elastic waistband pants that must be pulled down, rather than unbuttoned, the complaint alleges.
Because of this, kindergarten boys “have been teased by older male students because when they urinate, their pants expose their bare bottoms.”
The complaint alleges these hardships have led some kindergartners, who are potty-trained, to revert to “pull-up” type diapers.
The complaint also alleges there “have been several documented cases” in which children were unable to reach the restrooms and urinated on themselves.
District officials say there is no basis for either claim.
“At this time, Monte Vista administration does not know of any students wearing diapers in class as no parents have reported this to their teacher or to school administration,” according to Nam’s email.
She added, “None of the Monte Vista kindergarten teachers have reported seeing more bathroom accidents this year than they would consider to be a ‘normal’ amount, nor have they reported seeing more accidents this year than they have seen in prior years.”
Monte Vista does offer kindergarten-specific bathrooms with the closest to the bungalows located inside another kindergarten classroom in use.
As for older students, the complaint states there aren’t enough stalls in the girls’ restroom for a group of 10 classes, most in bungalows toward the back of the school.
According to the complaint, there are 256 students in those 10 classrooms, which leaves one bathroom with three stalls to accommodate roughly 128 girls.
That ratio of one stall for every 43 girls would be out of compliance with state standards of one stall per 30 girls and would require two additional stalls.
The complaint also listed distance issues.
Students in Elizabeth Nakano’s third-grade class, located in room No. 8107 at the far back corner of the campus, for instance, must walk approximately 100 yards to reach the nearest girls’ restroom.
While the grievance was filed March 7, Monte Vista parents said they have been asking district personnel for help for months, dating back to a report made for the superintendent’s facilities advisory committee meeting in September.
District officials said they have tried to work with parents, but none “came forward with specific incidences nor did they share any information or complaints with their teachers,” according to Nam.
“As the district has followed up on the Williams complaints, very few parents (three, so far) have responded to/returned district phone calls and or emails regarding their complaints,” Nam said. “The rest have either not responded or have declined a follow-up interview with the district.”
The most visible demonstration took place during a school board meeting on Feb. 19, at which multiple Monte Vista parents spoke against board members proposing to designate millions of Measure S bond funds to district pool renovations at Hoover and Crescenta Valley highs rather than address their needs.
“As parents, we waited on the sidelines wondering when or if our turn at Monte Vista would come,” said Joanne Kim, a parent of three students at Monte Vista.
Monte Vista parent Joann Cho said the lack of restroom access came as a revelation.
“Finally, this seems to explain for some parents why they have noticed some health issues such as constipation and accidents in the classroom,” she said.
Glendale Unified is focused on “long-term and short-term solutions,” Nam said.
“The district is working to make other improvements, which may include updating and beautifying the current bungalows, adding bathroom structures closer to the bungalows, or moving classrooms with younger students from bungalows into the main building,” she added.
The changes “would be scheduled during the summer to avoid impact on student learning,” Nam said.