School Justice: Punish the Victim
A letter from a mother to PTAVE
February 11, 2003
I'm writing in regards to your article about abuse in schools. I read through it and found the list of complaints of abuse in schools. [ABUSE IN SCHOOLS IS OUT!] The one that caught my attention was denying the use of the lavatory.

My son is currently involved in just such an issue. He is 16 yrs. old and a junior in high school. He asked his teacher if he could go to the bathroom. She told him no. He asked her several more times stressing that it was an emergency. She again denied him. He told her that he felt like he was about to wet his pants and she again denied him. He told her that it was causing him pain from trying to hold it. She said no. He got up to go to the bathroom and she physically barred his way by standing in the doorway. He told her that he wasn't going to wet his pants and would rather go in a bottle that was in the wastebasket. She told him to go right ahead but that he wasn't going anywhere. So he took the bottle from the trash, went to a corner and turned his back and urinated in the bottle.

I was notified 2 days later by the principle that because of what happened they were sending my son to an alternative school. He is off campus where they place problem children. He is isolated from everyone. He is not allowed to talk or even raise his head up. He can not look around. He eats what they bring from the lunch room. He can take is own lunch but then they would literally handle the food to make sure no drugs are in it. He was ordered to go there for 15 school days.

When I talked to the principal he said he had never had any problems with my son and he was one of the few polite ones that he knew.

They say the teacher will get a warning put in her file while my son is punished for 3 wks. They are more concerned about my son's action and are not about the teacher's action. They just keep saying she made a bad judgement.

I feel that my son is the victim here but is getting treated like the culprit.

Does this fall under the guide lines of emotional abuse? And do you have any suggestions about what I can do?

I am to meet with the school board on Mon. Feb. 17, 2003. I was told that they don't know what to make of this because it is not in the rule books and that this had never happened before.

Again I would be thankful for any kind of information you could give me.


Dorothy Cordero Acker
Tel.: 806-285-2283
P.O. Box 648
Olton, TX 79064

There's more to the story
A message to Project NoSpank from Debbie Haskins, February 17, 2003

After a lengthy conversation with Dorothy Cordero Acker, I learned a few more pertinent facts. Her son, Johnny Garza is a good student who has never been a behavior problem in his high school. He has had his share of serious struggles over the years, one of which is the fact that he has hemophilia. In second grade he received a paddling at school which left him terribly bruised and put his health at risk. His mother was outraged and had to make a lot of noise to assure that this dangerous type of punishment was not ever used on her son again. Dorothy recalled that she was once paddled in first grade for trying to get to the restroom in an urgent situation, against her teacher's wishes. During the humiliating paddling, which was inflicted on her in front of the entire class, she wet herself. It's no wonder she has strong feelings about her son being denied his right to go to the restroom and subsequently receiving an unjust punishment.

When Johnny was thirteen years old, he was in an accident that left him burned over 40% of his body. He spent a month in ICU and still bears scars today. It has been very difficult for him, but Dorothy said that this year, he had begun to finally venture out into normal teen activities. However, two of his favorite activities are now being denied him. He made the varsity baseball team, but will not be able to be part of the team now. He made all-region in band, a great honor for a band student, but was forced to miss his solo and ensemble competition. Recently, he was turned away from a dance at a local church. The person admitting the young people at the door claimed it was a school activity.

Johnny makes good grades and is in some advanced placement courses, where he is able to get college credit while still in high school. His mother doesn't know what impact being pulled out of his regular classroom will have on these courses. She has tried to make sure that he won't fall behind, but has no real assurance.Her son wants to be a doctor and he's afraid this will effect his future regarding college. The honors he could have gotten from baseball and solo-ensemble music awards are already gone for this year.

Why is this good student, who has overcome such adversity, being tormented this way? What were his options? Wet himself? Physically remove the teacher from the doorway? Or relieve himself in the bottle as he did? It's time to look at the real culprit here.

Debbie Haskins
Denton, TX

First letter to Ms. Acker from Ms. Haskins

February 15, 2003

I think that making your son's situation public as much as possible is probably your only recourse. Have you contacted anyone at your local newspaper? I am a freelance writer and am in the process of compiling research for some articles that I hope to be able to sell to major magazines. This unjust treatment of your son sounds like something that many other parents would be able to relate to. I certainly can. When one of my sons was in elementary school, three boys were trying to beat him up on the play ground. He was knocked to the ground, kicked and hit. We lived close to the school, so he ran home to safety. I took him back to school in order to get to the bottom of this upsetting situation. I was surprised when the principal scolded him and placed him in ISS along with his assailants. He got a raw deal and there wasn't anything I could do about it. He'd left campus without permission which they considered dangerous. Sorry, but I think a three to one assault is much more dangerous, but no one listened to me. I wish I'd put up more of a fuss, but I was intimidated by this principal. I wouldn't be today. I've learned a lot since then.

I'd love to feature you and your son in an article. Contact me and let me know your thoughts on this idea. Getting this kind of thing exposed is a powerful way to begin getting it stopped. You have my complete sympathy.

Debbie Haskins

Selected additional responses to Ms. Acker's letter

February 23, 2003

Dear Dorothy,

I'm not surprised to read of the experience of your son in respect using the toilet. Denial of the right to relieve onself is a widespread form of abuse in both schools and workplaces. Call centers are notorious for refusing workers the right to use the toilet and a recent case in Scotland involved workers having pay deducted for their wee breaks. The UK's TUC is campaigning on this issue (

The objectives of bullies and abusers are Power, Control, Domination and Subjugation. These are also the objectives of harassers, abusers, sex offenders and, I believe, paddlers who gain gratification by inflicting pain on a sexual area of the body of their underage victim who has been groomed for the abuse. Refusing children the right to relieve themselves is another example of exercising power and control.

I've dealt with thousands of cases of bullying in the workplace, and about one fifth of cases are from schools - these are adults being bullied by the principal, separate from the child bullying which is rife in any school where the principal is a serial bully. In almost every case it transpires that the principal has the behavior profile at and is fully supported by those who appointed and support him or her.

You may be surprised by how closely this profile describes teachers and principals (and others) who are known to be physically, verbally, psychologically or emotionally abusive towards pupils, staff and parents. You can use this profile to determine whether any teacher or principal is fit to be in the presence of children, and you can also identify this person's supporters (ie fellow abusers) as those who, when alerted, refuse to take action against him/her.

Best regards,


Tim Field DBA (Hon)
Author - Speaker, Success Unlimited,
Webmaster, Bully OnLine at Executive Director, The Field Foundation,

February 17, 2003

This appeared on the Texas Teachers Chat Board after Tom Stewart posted Dorothy Cordero Acker's letter there : "All the person has to do is file a code of ethics complaint with the State Board for Educator Certification. Any parent can do so from their website."

February 15, 2003

Dear Ms. Acker,

I have just read your letter to Jordan Riak about the abuse of your son by a teacher and my heart goes out to you. I am shocked and appalled. Denying your son the right to go to the bathroom is beyond my comprehension. This teacher has serious problems and should not be allowed to continue teaching. I can only imagine how humiliating it must have been to your son to have to use a bottle in the corner instead of the bathroom. That he is being punished, and severely, is completely unforgivable. Yes, you are absolutely right that it is the teacher who should be punished and not your son, who deserves sympathy and restitution.

Who ordered your son to go to the alternative school? I would urge you to extricate him as soon as possible, as his emotional scars are only going to get worse over this horrible incident by being in this other school. It sounds like a very abusive and crazy place. I have trouble believing it is part of the public school system.

Can you get a lawyer to help you? It sounds to me like you need some legal advice, and the sooner the better. You must get your son out of this other school; there is no reason on earth for him to be there. And then, if you possibly can, try to withdraw him from the high school; homeschool him if at all feasible. In the state of Texas, families who homeschool are considered private schools and the state has no jurisdiction over them. This would completely free your son from any more abusive situations arising from schools. Two statewide homeschool organizations that might help you are:

Texas Homeschool Coalition (806) 744-4441

Home Educators of Texas (713) 695-8109

They might also help you with legal issues concerning your son's present situation.

Good luck to you and your son,

Susan Lawrence
Children's Advocate

February 15, 2003


I received notice of your letter from Jordan Riak at PTAVE, and understood that it was okay to contact you and to "cc" Mr. Riak. My heart goes out to you, and I am once again *furious* about how little regard we have for children and adolescents in this country. Unfortunately, you live in Texas -- a state well known for its abuse of children by teachers and administrators in schools.

Your son is definitely the victim here, Dorothy. I believe this falls under the guidelines of emotional abuse, but whether your school district or even authorities will view this the same way is doubtful. I suspect you also want to spare you and your child future pain, which makes going public difficult.

In any case, I'd recommend documenting everything...your son's school performance, your principal's current comments, your parent-teacher conferences, and everything you can think of up to this point. If these reports are basically good, I'd keep the documentation. But even they are not, your son did not deserve to be treated as you describe.

After presenting the school board with your comments, I'd contact the media. This is a very hard thing to do, and I'd suggest talking this over with your son before proceeding.

Probably my best advice is to continue to support your son and believe in him. There are jerks everywhere -- in schools, in jobs, and in life. Let him know that you believe this is grossly unfair and you are behind him completely.

Feel free to email me and we can talk further. Take care, Dorothy,


February 15, 2003

Dear Dorothy:

I admire your courage to defend your child and your ability to validate his basic needs.

The teacher failed because she deprived your son of his basic human need and is guilty of neglect.

The school administration is guilty as well because it protects the “neglector”.

Basic needs are breathing, eating, drinking, sleeping, urinating and bowel movement.

I strongly believe that such an inhuman act needs not only to be made publicly known, it should also be brought to the attention of The Texas Board of Education, or in front of a judge.

I wish you strength Dorothy, if you decide to fight against people in deep denial of human rights.

Sieglinde W. Alexander

Adults Abused as Children Worldwide

February 15, 2003

Dear Dorothy,

After reading your letter I would think your son was not only emotionally abused but also physically neglected by not allowing him to use the rest room. It's very strange that a teacher would block the door so your son could not leave. That is odd intimidation. How humiliating for him to have had to urinate in a bottle in the classroom. I can't help but have a feeling your son was in a sense sexually violated by the fact he had to expose himself to urinate in a bottle, in a corner, right inside the classroom. This is a unique situation.

I would ask for more than just a note in the teacher's file. I would ask for a suspension for the teacher, because if this is allowed what will she pull next? I know that it is entirely inappropriate to use intimidation (blocking the door) when your son did not threaten anyone. Why is this teacher using bullying tactics?

Good luck with your meeting on Monday, and please let us hear what happens after the meeting.


Kelly W.
Home-schooling Parent

February 15, 2003

Dear Parent

I am a Board Certified and Fellowship Trained Sports Medicine Physician. I deal extensively with adolescents as they are generally the ones involved in Sports. What this teacher did constitutes physical as well as emotional abuse. Your son may have a small bladder. He may have had a urinary tract infection that would increase his urgency and frequency. His prostate may have been inflamed. Denying a person access to the bathroom is absurd.

I would contact your child's doctor and have him evaluated by a urologist; a doctor who specializes in disorders of the urinary tract. I would have a note on file from your primary care physician and/or the urologist stating that medically, when he has to urinate, he has to urinate. If your son had a potential infection at the time and the teacher denied him access to a bathroom, she would be practicing medicine without a license since she acts as though she knows more than the doctor. You should get an attorney and go after the "teacher" (I use the term loosely because this potentially psychotic control freak does NOT need to be anywhere near kids!) for civil and criminal penalties.

I wish you luck in your efforts. And the next time the teacher blocks your son's path to being treated like a human being, he should push her out of the way if he has to. He'd have a case for self defense!

Robert M. Stang, DO, FAOASM

February 15, 2003

I suggest that you contact the school board and the Texas Education Agency and your elected state representatives (governor, lt. governor, state rep, state senator) and raise a stink about this, preferably with an attorney. Call the State Bar of Texas (512-463-1463) for referrals to attorneys who have experience in education law.

I would also consider homeschooling my child for the last couple of years so that he doesn't have to be in such an abusive environment.

Good luck,

Inez V.

Austin, Texas

February 15, 2003

Dear Jordan,

I don't have any advice for this mother, I can only offer my support to her and to her son. That his teacher humiliated him so because of his need to eliminate, the most simple, natural thing in the world, is outrageous and beyond belief.

My experience with my children is that teachers in general tend to frown on children using the restroom other than certain selected times. When my daughter was in about 5th grade, her teacher would allow children to go to the bathroom once during the day aside from regular break times, but the student had to miss part of recess in exchange. Since my daughter has always been one to use the restroom rather frequently, she missed recess nearly every day that year. I never have and never will understand why the need to urinate three times during the school day rather than two times should be a punishable offense.

Mindy J.

February 15, 2003


No one in any public position has the right to deny a person to take care of necessary bodily functions. What would the next step be? That, you shall not breathe? Obviously, the teacher has serious power and control issues, which, likely she inherited from family behaviour when she was a child. That is not important except to say that her behaviour seems similar to our present governmental position about other countries that appear to be out of our present administration's control. Bullying is the worst kind of control and eventually backfires. It is difficult for me to accept that anywhere in the United States public employees treat their constituents the way your son was treated. I know that in California there would be serious ramifications for the teacher, the school and the school district and likely would end up in a lawsuit. I am not recommending that but I do think you should be aware that many areas within our country will not allow such behaviour. Be strong and pursue this to a positive end for you and your son. You may communicate with me through Jordan Riak, if you choose.

Jerry T.

School Psychologist (Retired)

February 15, 2003

Hi Dorothy,

My name is Libby and I live in a little one horse town in east Texas. The superintendent, the asst. super., the school board, and all the principals are male. This is to give you a picture as to what I have been up against out here. I don't know where you live, but it sounds like another small Texas town. There seems to be a lot of confusion in this state as to what a school can and cannot do.

I have a daughter and she had a similar thing happen to her. A male teacher asked her if it was really necessary that she go to the little girls' room. She had no prior history as to being late because of bathroom use. I went to the principal the next day and had it out with him about the incident. I told the principal that it was extremely inappropriate for an adult male to be asking a young female why she needed to use the restroom, for ANY reason. I also told him that it could be for any one of THREE reasons and that none of them were his business. The principal had to think about that one, seriously, I could see him trying to count past two. I also asked him how much time the students had between classes. He said five minutes and that should be enough. I instantly replied, "IS IT???" The principal then tried to say that if she had a prior history that it could be warranted. I shot back with, "at NO time, should an adult male ask any female her reasoning for needing to go to the bathroom, regardless of age, and definitely, not a young teen female. IF there was a prior history of bathroom abuse, then he should get a female to ask."

In your case, this is also sexual harrassment, in reverse. Some females think that a male can hold urine forever and that just isn't true. It takes time to go to lockers, go to class and wait in line to use one of the urinals. I assume your son hasn't had a history of being late to class for this reason. It also doesn't sound like he has been a discipline problem, either.

In your case, now that he is in alternative school, I would demand that he be returned to the mainstream, IMMEDIATELY. Bathroom restrictions on children is abuse and you aren't going to put up with it. Also, tell him that you expect to never hear of another episode of bathroom restrictions by any other teacher.

You don't need to take my advice on this. What I have done in this one horse town is to let these people think that I am a hothead. I don't mind this reputation, at all. I also state what I expect, which is usually within reason, from the school. I have made sure that I haven't sent the school a discipline problem and then they have no grounds for being unreasonable. Send a letter to the school board stating the facts and that your son could have pushed his way by the teacher, but didn't. His only recourse was to use a bottle, wet his pants, or use the wall (which I would have told my son to do if I had a son!).

Try to get the principal again and tell him that this teacher was being absurd about the bathroom, that maybe your son should have pushed past her to go to the restroom or used the wall, but he did show restraint. No teacher should practice bathroom restrictions as it causes bladder and kidney infections. Also state that your son is NOT a discipline problem, either, and doesn't deserve to be there and you want him back in the mainstream immediately.

I have found that telling someone in the school system works a lot better than requesting. Whenever I go in to the school, I expect them to disagree, that it will be an issue, and that I won't tolerate it. I told the principal that I was way too angry to talk rationally to the teacher that questioned my daughter about using the bathroom. I told him that in the future, IF there were any more incidents about this, it best be a female teacher that questions her! In your case, the reverse is true, that a female teacher doesn't have the right to embarrass him about bodily functions. What if he had had diarhea? Children get siock, they have periods, they also find themselves in the middle of class needing to relieve themselves. Teachers excuse themselves if they can't wait, adults do that. Children should be able to, also.


Elisabeth D.

February, 15, 2003

Hi Dorothy,

That school is too #$%$#^%$ stupid for words. They are backward and abusive. Not just the one teacher, but the principal, the school board, everyone. I would not send your son to the alternative BS school, or even back to that idiot school. I would tell them THIER options are to put him immediately back in class with another teacher, or you would home school.

That is, if that is any option. Another option that might be available is a private school or something else. Many of them are backward and abusive too. You would have a hard time finding one in your part of the world that didn't paddle.

I did pull my son out of a stupid backward school here in Michigan, so I know it is tough. Its hard, but it is better than keeping your child in dumbsville. They've already screwed up so bad there is no fixing it. Get him out now if you can, in any way you can. You can help the community by continuing to complain to the board, but I would be their worst enemy fromt his day forward. I would tout this case everywhere you go, and complaint that you HAVE to homeschool because your tax dollars are wasted by an abusive, backward school that is worse than worthless.

I would argue for vouchers. You can really mix up the right wingers and carry a picture of President Bush touting vouches, and underneath give the name of your local school as a REASON vouchers are needed badly.

My 2 cents. Whether you want to raise hell or not is up to you, but get your kid out of hicksville schools ASAP, if at all possible.


Jeff Charles

February 15, 2003

Dear Mrs. Acker:

I am simply outraged by what I read re your son being given abusive treatment for the incident in school. Can these folks tell you what other options were left for your son? What did he do wrong and what should he have done, in their minds? In other words, what is the infraction for which he is being punished? If they cannot come up with a reasonable violation to charge him with and a suitable alternate behavior which he supposedly should have chosen, it proves their actions are purely abusive and it seems you would have legitimate grounds for a lawsuit. Legal consultation with a good attorney seems to me to be an appropriate first step.

Beyond that, I would think this incident should be given full public media exposure - newspapers, national news, tv talk shows, etc., bringing school officials the public embarassment necessary to cause them to think about the fairness of their decisions and actions in the future.

I wish you the best of luck for the outcome of this demonstration of very poor judgement by school officials.

Best Regards,
Jerry A.

February 15, 2003


If this were my child, I would do the following.

I would document every telephone call and conversation you have had and will have right now. Then:

1. I would call Social Serivices and file a complaint for child abuse;
2. I would call the police department and file a complaint for child abuse;
3. I would send a letter to the Superintendant of the local School Board filing a complaint and stating very clearly what you want done about it, i.e., the teacher reprimanded, you son reinstated to his school position, in other words he needs to be put back to where he was before this occurred.
4. I would copy this letter to the Principle and the teacher.
5. I would contact the local ACLU and send a copy to them.
6. I would contact an attorney who has a background in children's issues.
7. I would contact every child advocacy group in your area.

Unless there are grounds for placing your child in an alternative school this is unacceptable behavior and can not be tolerated by any parent. If a parent behaved this way towards a child they could be charged with something I am sure!



February 17, 2003

I cannot go to bed this morning with your story on my mind, without writing you both on how strongly I support you both taking action against such abuse. No matter what your son did, if anything, to bring down such punishment, the punishment is inhuman and unjustified.

I see that you have received many letters at Jordan Riak's website, most of which I agree with wholeheartedly. If you are the aggressive type to go bring issues before public groups, as suggested by M.K., I would certainly add going to my congressperson and the Secretary of Education, Ron Paige. Now both these people come from states that allow corporal punishment in the schools, Texas and Missouri (or is Paige from Mississippi?). At some point, depending on what kind of persons you and your neighborhood and/or school district have, this kind of violating behavior by people in school power positions over kids, needs to be made a national issue. In this TV nation, it's a talk show item -- it would outrage most people, I believe (I sure hope so). But that is not an end in itself -- that only gives it visibility. Eventually it has to become a legal matter -- perhaps not something you're in a position to set into motion -- or perhaps you're ready to start that process, trusting it will gain the momentum it deserves.

Eventually it (corporal punishment) has to become a court matter that has to gain protection of the "cruel and unusual punishment" provision in the Constitution. As far as I know, there is none yet extended to kids in schools and homes. Adults are considered to be universally benevolent enough to take care of them -- an unreal assumption as we know.

Just want you to know that I, along with so many others, strongly support whatever efforts you and your son make to change an outrageous practice, an unqualified teacher, a limp and irresolute school administration, but even more -- to establish a principle that honors the personhood of young men and women going through our school systems so they learn how to handle themselves honorably. Since your school system does not yet provide that kind of education, it falls on you, the parent(s) to set that standard.

I regret that we are no further along in socializing our schools than we are, but given that's the case in your punishing state, your work is cut out for you. Know you're not alone.

I'm sending a copy of this to Jordan, since he is the connection between us and so many others concerned with similar issues.

Theo Wells

See "Health Risks to Children Associated With Forced Retention of Bodily Waste - A statement by healthcare professionals" at

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