The contest: School offers prizes if kids hold it in

Brooklyn Daily

Call it the wee-wee protocol.

A teacher at a Coney Island grammar school hands out prizes to kids who don’t take bathroom breaks as part of a controversial new policy aimed at keeping kids at their desks — and off the toilet.

The new rule was put in place last Friday in a fifth grade class after a teacher told PS 90 principal Greta Hawkins that students were taking too many trips to the loo — and has parents demanding Hawkins be let go for allowing such a draconian rule in the school.

“You’re going to give [our kids] bladder problems and they’re going to be wetting themselves during class,” said Luz Lozada, who has a child in the school.

One parent, who claims to have an autistic child with a bladder condition in the class, confirmed the policy is in place and demanded it be revoked because no prize is worth the pain of having to hold it until the dismissal bell rings.

“Eight hours a day for five days, three passes — that doesn’t make any sense,” said Sandra Leon. “[My son] has a bladder problem and is getting surgery for it — and this is exacerbating it.”

According to parents and an e-mail between the teacher and the principal obtained by us from a source inside the school, students in the class get three bathroom vouchers a week. If a student needs to use the facilities, a voucher is handed over. The teacher hands out prizes to students who still have all three of their vouchers on Friday. Prizes include stickers and pencils, according the source who sought anonymity for fear of retribution.

According to the e-mail, which teacher Stephanie Warner sent to Hawkins, the policy was put in place last Friday, and kids can only cash in on their passes during three short windows throughout the day.

“Only one person at a time, they must have the pass, they have three minutes, they must sign in and out properly, and they must ask me. If the procedures are not followed properly, they will receive a note home,” Warner wrote, adding that kids “must go at some point during lunch or recess.”

Warner put the policy in place because she was fed up with kids asking to relieve themselves, according to the e-mail.

“I can’t think of anything else that would solve this problem,” wrote Warner. “I am exasperated with the constant bathroom needs.”

Hawkins did not respond to several messages seeking comment on the bathroom policy. Warner did not respond to a message sent to her Facebook page.

Parents’ outrage over the rule is the latest in a litany of grievances about their principal — several of which were brought before Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott at a town hall meeting in Gravesend last week, where they demanded Hawkins be removed from the W. 12th Street school.

Parents allege that Hawkins has threatened to report parents of misbehaving students to the city’s Administration of Children’s Services; assigned paraprofessionals hired to take care of children to menial office tasks; closed the school library to students; and failed to account for nearly $4,000 set aside for parent involvement activities during the 2010–2011 school year.

Walcott wouldn’t address the complaints, stating he doesn’t deal with personnel issues at public meetings, but said his team was aware of the problems, and would deal with the controversy.

“We’ll always do our due diligence to ensure that the environment in any school in is an environment where our children can learn,” he said.

Department of Education officials denied the bathroom protocol exists at the school, and said that there isn’t any limit on when kids can go to the john.

“There is no policy that limits bathroom breaks,” said Department of Education spokeswoman Marge Feinberg. “There is no policy where a child gets a prize for not using a pass.”

Rules over when students can go to the bathroom are set by each school, she said, and students are not limited as long as they go to the john with another student.

Feinberg refused to comment on the legality of the policy, saying that she would not address “hypothetical” situations.

But a source with direct knowledge of the policy said that there’s nothing hypothetical about it.

“Ms. Warner came up with the policy and Ms. Hawkins OK’d it,” the source said.

— with Colin Mixson

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@cnglocal.com or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at twitter.com/dsmacleod.

Reader Feedback

parent from coney island says:
Nothing but problems with this principal. she's not qualified to be in charge of a school.
Jan. 18, 2012, 3:49 pm
Maria from Bayside says:
In my daughter's middle school, they get 3 bathroom passes per semester, not per day. I have been in schools where the policy is that students can't use the bathroom the first and last period of each day. They also can't be given the pass during the first and last ten minutes of each class.
Is is me or is this ridiculous? Unfair? Cruel?
Jan. 18, 2012, 3:56 pm
Maria from Bayside says:
Sorry, correction: 3 bathroom passes per marking period as per one of her teacher's rules.
Jan. 18, 2012, 3:59 pm
johnnyboy from windsorterrace says:
I wonder who leaked the story?
Jan. 18, 2012, 3:59 pm
jose from coney island says:
Maybe the teacher should have contacted the parents of the students that abuse the bathroom break instead of coming up with a stupid contest, the principal is not too bright to go along with this policy
Jan. 18, 2012, 4:15 pm
parent from Coney Island says:
This principal has been nothing but problems for the staff and students. She is not qualified to be a principal, but was in the Mayor's Principal's academy....She needs to go back to learn what education is all about!
Jan. 18, 2012, 4:18 pm
parent from coney island says:
There is so much to learn--and we never stop learning. This mentality is an ingredient in our journey throughout life. This is what I tell my kids..never think you know it all. Obviously, this principal thinks she knows it all. Thinking in anyway that this "bathroom protocol" was acceptable, is totally absurd! It is unacceptable. It is scary to think that someone who we are suppose to trust our kids with actually thought about this idea. Furthermore, that this so-called Principal allowed her to implement it is even worse. Did she ever think about how it is inhumane and of the possible adverse effects on our children? I think she is failing our children. I think someone should intervene. She might think she knows it all, but it sounds like she still needs to learn a lot more. I commend those parents who advocated for their children. I wish many more would.
Jan. 18, 2012, 4:49 pm
student from brooklyn says:
What is the purpose of doing this why would she bribe kids in this kid of way what are you teaching us?
Jan. 18, 2012, 5:24 pm
concerned parent from coney island says:
This is why people should do their homework and ask their children what's going on.

1) giving out "passes" and limiting the usage of the bathroom for children is ILLEGAL! this will cause serious damage to their liver, bladder and kidneys! i do not care if it's for a day, a week, a marking period, whatever. it is illegal and immoral to bribe a child to hold their waste until they get home.

2) the issues of this particular school goes way beyond this incident - this clearly was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. it is confirmed who leaked the story - many p***** off parents who wants this nightmare to end.

3) reporting children to children's services for retaliation and to curb behavior? who in the heck does this? you're supposed to call the parents! and to boot, calling children services to cover up their wrongdoing? lady, just fall on your damn sword!

it is very clear that this principal has issues and went the absolute wrong way to handle children. this story is going to bring out many other misdeeds. just stay tuned.
Jan. 18, 2012, 5:33 pm
felicita henry from coney island says:
People .... we need to spend a little time in our children's school to know what really goes on. My daughter attends that school am proud to say that Mrs Gretta Hawkins is a great Principal and these stories are not true. It's sad that u would make such comments yet leave your child there to suffer....these r just dirty lies !
Jan. 18, 2012, 6:48 pm
felicita henry from coney island says:
I mean really people does it even sound real "the wee wee protocol" come on let's get real people just want to bring others down with them when they r miserable. Did u ever hear the statement "misery loves company" maybe you need to sit and talk to Mrs Hawkins to get to know how she feels about her students as well as how she treats them. I am totally in disgusted with these absurd statements...interview the students if u feel she is so bad
Jan. 18, 2012, 7:19 pm
Lisa Serrano from Bklyn says:
I am a parent of ps 90 and all I want to say is that it is really incredible that people would even believe such lies. My child has been here for 3 yrs and I only have good things to say about our principal and never have we ever had a potty policy. If anyone wants the real truth they shld look at facts from our DOE in stead of from parents that are never at school participating or involved with anything that goes on there. What they shld b concerned about is that our school went from a failing c to an A in educational levels. From the hard work of our so called brutal principal. And if parents are that worried and concerned about anything that is abusive to their child I no myself as a parent wouldn't leave my child in that school but yet no children have been discharged. So how true is all this bulls$&?! Can u figure that out !!!!!
Jan. 18, 2012, 7:34 pm
parent says:
I'm reaching out to anyone at P.S. 90 who has an extra bathroom voucher. I need to go to the bathroom and I already used my last voucher. Can I please borrow or purchase one? Seriously, if this is not grounds for dismissal, what possibly could be? None are so blind as those who won't see and obviously the chancellor is conveniently losing his sight. My new years wish is for Hawkins to get the runs and is forced to borrow a voucher from one of the students.
Jan. 18, 2012, 7:41 pm
Gee Whiz from Alabama says:
I am only specifically addressing the teacher's policy and the school's bathroom policy.

1) A child with confirmed autism and bladder problems will have an IEP plan that would automatically exclude this child from the teacher's policy. In plain language, that child, by law, can go anytime he needs. If the teacher is not excluding this child from the policy, the parent has the right and the OBLIGATION to meet with the special education teacher/school counselor/principal to review the IEP plan.
2) This is a fifth grade class. The children are 10, 11, or 12 years old. They are beginning puberty. Most individual children aged 10 of average mental capabilities and average physical condition should not have to use the bathroom every hour.
3) These students likely have the right and ability to use the bathroom in the mornings upon arrival to school. If not, they have at least the right and ability to go to the bathroom before leaving home. Yes, they may have to take long bus/car rides. If there is not a school policy to allow students to use the bathroom immediately after arriving to/leaving from school, then parents should contact the principal and ask for such a policy to be put in place. This way all students have at least 3 and possibly 4 opportunities to visit the bathroom everyday.
4) They get to go to the bathroom during lunch and recess.
5) Teachers are held legally responsible for the safety of students in their classes even if the student(s) are in the bathroom, which means if a child or children chooses to wander elsewhere while out of the teacher's sight/gets beat up by another student in the bathroom/has a medical emergency while in the bathroom/etc., the teacher can be held at fault for lack of supervision.
6) The teacher does not say she will deny a student who has used up three vouchers a trip to the bathroom. She says she will send a note home informing the parents that the child has used up the vouchers. This does not sound like a punishment but rather like sharing information with parents.
7) Average 10 year olds are mentally capable of anticipating that they might have to urinate in a hour/2 hours/3 hours or so. Therefore, is it unreasonable to expect 10 year olds to take precautionary bathroom trips before school, during lunch, and during recess?
8) This policy seems aimed at students using repeated bathroom trips as breaks to get away from the oh-so-boring process of learning and tedious assignments and work. I certainly used that excuse whenever possible. Er, I certainly USE that excuse whenever possible.
8) Try adequately teaching a class when when you are interrupted every 3 to 5 minutes by a student wanting to go to the bathroom.
9) I was an average 10 year old once upon a time. I vaguely remember getting about 3 to 4 official bathroom breaks a day, with the occasional whispering to the teacher "I need to go bad." This was the general reality of every elementary grade I was in except kindergarten (that class had its own bathroom attached). I DON'T remember being traumatized by this policy. I realized without even being consciously aware of it that I was expected by my teachers AND PARENTS to anticipate needing to go to the bathroom.
10) Why do today's parents expect so much less of their children than yesterday's parents?
Jan. 18, 2012, 8:17 pm
yana from coney island says:
I am a parent of a student in fourth grade. I think these bathroom rules in the school are pure nonsence. Children have the right to go to the bathroom as much as they want to. This isn't not a jail. The principal doesn't know what kids are. We don't have to stand for her foolish ways od running our school.
Jan. 18, 2012, 9:01 pm
yana from coney island says:
I am a parent of a student in fourth grade. I think these bathroom rules in the school are pure nonsence. Children have the right to go to the bathroom as much as they want to. This isn't not a jail. The principal doesn't know what kids are. We don't have to stand for her foolish ways od running our school.
Jan. 18, 2012, 9:01 pm
Teacher from USA says:
What I look at here as a teacher is this:

The teacher with this coupon policy obviously is not making the students education interesting enough. Most students ask for the bathroom as a way to escape a simply boring lesson. Make education fun and interesting and only the children who really have to use the facilities will ask to do so.
Jan. 18, 2012, 9:15 pm
Confused from Marine Park says:
Maybe it is just me, but why is the bathroom habits of children more of a news story than the type of education they are receiving? According to the article the class is a fifth grade class, I cannot imagine that theses kids need to go to the bathroom that much unless they just want an excuse to leave class , and I am sure that if a child is autistic or has any type of special need, the teacher would not allow them to go to the bathroom. It sounds a little outrageous to me that so many people are getting so vicious about it. You should be worrying more about your childs education than their bathroom habits. Its sad that this is what passes for news
Jan. 18, 2012, 10:05 pm
jane doe from brooklyn says:
I work here. I am shocked and disgusted about the lies.
T
Jan. 18, 2012, 10:57 pm
jane doe from brooklyn says:
The principal ,ms. Hawkins

cares about the students
Jan. 18, 2012, 11:01 pm
ignore nonsense from coney island says:
This is yet another ridiculous ploy by some vendetta-driven imbeciles who unfortunately teach at the school. The principal is a remarkable educator who is consistently the subject of these absurd, and at times libelous, stories. No one bothers to report on less sensational goings-on at the school, like her commitment to providing additional, sorely-needed support to Special Education students or demanding that teachers actually step up to teach their students (as opposed to taking naps under their desks, as they had done under previous administrations).

Kids abuse going to the bathroom all the time. And in 5th grade? Anyone who has spent real time in an elementary school knows that as kids get older, the bathroom becomes a space for socializing and wasting time. Some can argue that the teacher isn't engaging them enough - cop out rationale. The teacher's intentions were not to abuse children, but to ensure that they are at least present for critical instructional time. The implementation of this idea went off-track but the story is being spun to a) generate ratings/readership and b) implicate the principal in yet another scandal by a group of incompetent idiots who should be stripped of their tenure.
Jan. 18, 2012, 11:55 pm
a very involved parent from coney island says:
you have to be kidding me with all the lies and —— these parents are saying about the principal Mrs.Hawkins everyone always have something to say why dont you talk about how she brought this school from a grade c to an a.....if you dont like whats going on in the school or the principal then you should take your child out instead of running your mouth and talking lies..... as for who wrote nothing but problems with this principal shes not qualified to be in charge of a school you should jump off the earth and worry about whats going on in your household........everyone is saying this is for the kids the kids this the kids that then interview the kids instead of interviewing these parents and teachers who are full of ——.....!!!!!!!
Jan. 19, 2012, 10:34 am
Unfortunate says:
This is all bs started from a fifth grade teacher who is miserable and incompetent who needs more training. Its sad when the focus has been taken off of the kids in her classroom whom arent learning a thing because she has a vendetta out for the principal due to pure hate and jealousy. The ignorant parents that play into this mess need to further their education so they can have the brain capacity to understand whats going on and when they are being used. This potty mess is absurd and as far from the truth as one can imagine. If the teacher is so unhappy there she should find another job in a C school and take her parents with her where she would most definitely fit in. This is so messy but Mrs. Hawkins has proven herself with a stellar track record. Check Mrs. G's record its comical to say the least.
Jan. 19, 2012, 11:09 am
raine from long island city says:
these policies really affect peoples' lives.
when i was in junior high i had menstrual problems... heavy/frequent bleeding. i first started skipping math class thanks to a math teacher that only allowed a few passes a semester. i bled out several times in class, was humiliated.. my mother yelled at the principal and still nothing happened.. and thats when i first started skipping class and falling behind... and dropped out eventually. i now work in building codes. HINT! if they have closed/locked the bathrooms CALL 311... get a buildings department inspector out there.. it is against code...! the more other agencies/entities involved the more 'political' .. Regardless of when the school was built the building codes at the time (1938, 1968 or 2008) all have mandatory minimums for restroom amounts. the building inspectors are sometimes ignorant of codes like the cops are of law but getting them out there is a good part of the battle... just my 2 cents from an insider for whom this is a personal pet peeve... good luck
Jan. 19, 2012, 12:43 pm
parent from coney island says:
a correction needs to be made....we were NOT a c when Mrs. Hawkins became principal at PS 90!! At the time she entered the school we were an A school. The first year Mrs. Hawkins came in we went down to a B...Yes this year we got an A, however the state sees PS 90 as being in corrective action (a failing school!) We were NEVER in corrective action before!!! That is nothing but the facts!!! And why didn't children who needed services not given them the first three months of school? Why is there money missing from all her fund raisers? Where is the money and why is Mrs. Hawkins refusing to tell where the money is from these funds, the library books she sold to the children and the parent involvement money from the SLT? Where is the money?
Jan. 19, 2012, 3:25 pm
a very involved parent from coney island says:
@ parent from coney island maybe if you was in the school involved with whats going on in your childs life you would know the facts and the real story to whats going on with the money you should be more interested in your childs school work then money so get over yourself and stop writing lies
Jan. 19, 2012, 4 pm
Jane Doe from brooklyn says:
I am a staff member that has been in the building for many years and this is the 3rd principal I have worked under. I can tell you that EVERY WORD is TRUE....the parents that commented on here are parents that are on the PTA and are treated well by the principal so of course they are going to defend her.....The STAFF has to constantly look over their backs because if they get "caught" speaking to a coworker they will be called in and reprimanded. It is a nightmare working in that building and some of us have no choice. She is a snake and knows how to talk to people to make them think the is out for the children. She was even heard telling a child whose hand got slammed in a door and whose fingers were broken to "stop saying it hurt, I know it hurts and don't want to hear that again." I don't know about you but that doesn't sound like she is good to the children.
Jan. 19, 2012, 4:05 pm
a very involved parent from coney island says:
it kills me how these parents are standing outside the school giving out letters full of lies as well as talking —— to the news reporters but then yet you have your children still coming to this school smh really big time losers get over it and face it Greta Hawkins is the best principal this school has had.......!!!!!!!
Jan. 19, 2012, 4:10 pm
Joe from brooklyn says:
Sounds like hawkins and her cronies are doing some damage control here. this story has gone national where there's is smoke there's is fire. all media outlets are covering bathroom gate. their must be some truth here. everybody is lying but hawkins and the teacher involved. c'mon now
Jan. 19, 2012, 4:36 pm
Jane from brooklyn says:
and to the very involved parent.....Madlene Chan was the best principal this school has had......if you were so involved you would know that.....she brought that school to an A rating and the parents and staff alike loved her....
Jan. 19, 2012, 4:55 pm
A VERY INVOLVED PARENT from CONEY ISLAND says:
lol jane thanks for the laugh.........!!!!!!!!!!!
Jan. 19, 2012, 5 pm
Leslie Manuel from Coney Island says:
Dear Enemies,Haters and Doubters.....LEAVE MY DAMN PRINCIPAL ALONE!!!!(Mrs. Greta Hawkins)..Get a life...Go do something with yourself...Go Cook!
Jan. 19, 2012, 6:59 pm
Staff member from Brooklyn says:
Mrs Chan without a doubt best principal P.S 90 ever had every single kid in that school and every staff member loved her and to the involved parents why can't everybody say the same about Hawkins? Mrs Chan we all missed you so very much P.S 90 was never the same after you left . :(
Jan. 19, 2012, 7:27 pm
Staff member from Brooklyn says:
Mrs Chan without a doubt was the best principal P.S 90 ever had every single kid and every staff member loved her and to the very involved parents ask yourself Why can't everybody say the same about Hawkins? Mrs Chan we missed you so much P.S 90 was never the same after you left. :(
Jan. 19, 2012, 7:40 pm
degrassie queen from coney island says:
greta told my techer not to let us go to the bathroom so she deserves to be kiked out of this school she is so mean
Jan. 20, 2012, 7:43 am
Benitez from Brookyn says:
As an involved parent, who attends PTA meetings it amazes me that I don’t recall any parent presenting any inquiries regarding students who needed services and whom did not receive them the first three months of school, or anyone making any inquiries on "missing money"-- if there was a desire for clarification or to see a situation addressed -- wouldn't one go straight to the source(s) with these inquiries. Or do we then settle for making assumptions, and eventually documenting unsubstantiated accusations.

During the initial PTA meeting this academic year the principal presented the following question to each and every parent (paraphrasing here)-- If there is an area in which you think PS90 can improve, please share it with us? If there is anything that you had the power to change --what would it be? There was a mature and collaborative conversation between Ms. Hawkins and active parents who had the platform to share any concerns or desired changes in any area. From experience whenever I had a question for Ms. Hawkins or expressed a concern directly to her, in person or in writing, there was a response which was received directly from her and it was not ignored. There are memorandums which have been sent home in the beginning of the academic year where the email and contact information for Ms. Hawkins has been provided inviting the parents to reach out to her if there are any concerns.

It is shameful to see how a handful of parents would take a picture of a dedicated principal whom you see when you drop-off your child in the morning, or when you pick them up from the “Y” program or the BELL program, or when you visit the main office, or when you attend a school event, or a PTA meeting, and place it on a poster stating “save PS90 from Greta” and thus distribute it to parents whom are accompanied with their children. A few parents in conversation have shared how their children have asked why the image of their principal has been placed on posters, some have seen the reports on the news, these children care for Ms. Hawkins as she has earned their respect and love through her actions, involvement and demonstration of same.

The legal dictionary defines Defamation of Character as follows -- Any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person's reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person.

I wonder if the first approach of the parents whom have their children in Ms. Warner's class addressed the teacher directly with their concern, or if they requested a meeting with Ms. Warner and/or administration in an attempt to have the concern addressed with the circle of those possibly affected. It would seem inconceivable that the first approach was to go directly to the media and have every child at PS90 deal with the presence of reporters from when they entered the school in the morning till dismissal of Y and BELL at 5:30pm.
Jan. 20, 2012, 11:30 am
Leslie Manuel from Coney Island says:
I am a Mrs. Hawkins supporter all day........Mrs. Hawkins for P.S.90....
Jan. 20, 2012, 2:04 pm
Leslie from coney island says:
@jane Doe from Brooklyn talk what you know and not what you heard...she dont treat the Pta no different from the population.....if thats the case why my two kids was not on the honor roll....why my 2 kids didnt get awards and medals....Miss Hawkins do not take part in partiality....everybody seem to be hooked on miss Chan dont know the woman dont want to know the woman....but she do not have a good report...i heard parents complain about her....
Jan. 20, 2012, 6:32 pm
parent from coney island says:
this is not a good thing.
Jan. 21, 2012, 9:58 am
leslie manuel from coney island says:
One thing I know ..there is a God an he will deal in this situation..to who ever what you sow you gonna reap...mrs. Hawkins is the best principal ever..she is a sweet woman..too sweet for her own good..I am going to continue to stand for what I believe...when you have a voice nobody likes you..guess what? ..that's you'll problem..smh..Mr.Hawkins I support you.
Jan. 21, 2012, 2:03 pm
Jude from Innwood says:
My ex does this in her kindergarten class. You get a single jellybean for not going to the bathroom all day. She said she was surprised when a 5 year old wet her pants rather than giving up the jellybean.....
Jan. 21, 2012, 5:41 pm
Jane from Hoover says:
I developed early & started my period in 5th grade! This rule, & 3 minutes (???) would've made my life in school (with Poly Cystic Ovarian Disease) more hell than it was. Shame on them! I eventually homeschooled. Also, I can remember once urgently having to go pee in kindergarden, & not being allowed,... so I went anyway... right there. The look on the teacher's face still warms my heart ;) Lawsuits & homeschooling/unschooling for the win! -...says one of Duke's brightest.
Jan. 29, 2012, 10:17 pm
Annonyumous from Coney Island says:
I used to go to this school last year. It just got worse and worse. Hawkins ruined everything! Thank god I left.
Feb. 7, 2012, 8:11 pm
the real warrior from grand rapismich says:
thats sad no teacher in the usa no school shoulnt do that a good teacher teaches so he orshe shount have no problems with kids in new york yes and ve comeing soon 2012stay in school please 2012 no gangs the real warrior jose coney go web the real warrior new move it start at home andthe school yespu this out ther the realwarrior from coney 1980s og puertorican italianand black 48years old
Feb. 13, 2012, 12:05 pm
asha from ashajamaican@rocketmail.com says:
ALL children need love so love them do not hurt them. love is a rose. love is not a contest. I am jamaican girl who love children. respect your self and love your children you learn from them. hope will save the world. if you see a rose look at it is god love. children love like rose. a rose can save you. teacher need to be a rose.
Feb. 13, 2012, 12:16 pm
asha from grand rapids michigan says:
All children need love respect your self and your children. love is not a contest. love is a rose. respect the rose got love in it. god is a part of a rose. rose are stronger then hurt someone. hope build love. love build faith. fatih is beaitful your children is part of that.
Feb. 13, 2012, 12:27 pm
Former P.S. 90 student says:
Greta Hawkins was acually an amazing principal. All of you who are commenting on how she only causes trouble for the school are wrong. You shouldn't judge her if you never met her, talked to her, or even learned if this is true or not!
Feb. 11, 5:09 pm

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