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Parents in a San Diego suburb are upset because children are forced to go to the bathroom with the door open.
A school spokesperson with Chula Vista School District sympathized with parents' complaints, and said kids are so embarrassed about having to go to the bathroom without the door shut, they are having accidents in the classroom.
The spokesperson said the policy is not by choice and the district is forced to follow state regulations.
The trouble began for the Ramirez family when Patricia Ramirez asked her 4-year-old daughter Emily what was new at her school, Castle Park Elementary School.
"She told me that they can't close the restroom doors anymore," Ramirez said. "And I asked her, 'Are you sure this is the thing you guys are doing?' and she said 'Yeah'," said Ramirez.
"I felt like it was taking their privacy away," said Ramirez.
Ramirez said she asked the teacher's assistant about her daughter's claim that all children must go the bathroom with the doors open.
"She said it was something from the state, that it's a new policy," said Ramirez.
Emily's dad, Daniel Ramirez, called the principal to complain. He said he was told he was the twelfth person to contact them with concerns.
Ramirez said he was transferred to the person in charge of the pre-school program at the Chula Vista Elementary School District.
"The woman said, 'I have kids and I don't understand the rules and I've been trying to figure out ways around it but they are pulling the licenses if they don't do it'," Ramirez said of his conversation with the school.
The family believes it sends mixed messages to small children. At home, Emily must close the door, while at school she has to keep the door open.
ABC San Diego went to the Chula Vista Elementary School District where a spokesman told us, this rule is coming straight from the state.
"Children have had accidents already from not wanting to use the facilities," said Anthony Millican, a district spokesman. "It's uncomfortable for them to do it in the open."
Millican said the district has to enforce a state regulation at all of its schools following a citation by the California Department of Social Services Community Care Licensing Division.
The citation happened at Feaster-Edison Charter Preschool in early March, for allowing kids to shut the door in the bathroom.
Now, the school district must come up with a solution for 800 children in the preschool program that is acceptable to parents and the state.
"We are working with the state to figure out what is acceptable to them," said Millican.
ABC San Diego contacted the California Department of Social Services public information officer Michael Weston.
Weston said under the Visual Observation Rule, which is a state regulation, all preschool children 4 years old and younger must be seen at all times.
Weston would not do a phone interview on the regulation, something he called black and white.
ABC San Diego found some gray areas.
The visual observation rule states:
101229 RESPONSIBILITY FOR PROVIDING CARE AND SUPERVISION 101229
(a) The licensee shall provide care and supervision as necessary to meet the children's needs.
(1) No child(ren) shall be left without the supervision of a teacher at any time, except as specified in
Sections 101216.2(e)(1) and 101230(c)(1). Supervision shall include visual observation.
The regulation does not specifically name the bathroom or give any other guidelines as to how this rule should be implemented.
Yet under the personal rights section in the child care center general licensing requirements, it states:
101223 PERSONAL RIGHTS 101223
(a) The licensee shall ensure that each child is accorded the following personal rights:
(1) To be accorded dignity in his/her personal relationships with staff and other persons.
(2) To be accorded safe, healthful and comfortable accommodations, furnishings and equipment to
meet his/her needs.
(3) To be free from corporal or unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation,
ridicule, coercion, threat, mental abuse or other actions of a punitive nature including but not
limited to: interference with functions of daily living including eating, sleeping or toileting; or
withholding of shelter, clothing, medication or aids to physical functioning.
The regulations say all school districts must be in compliance or districts could lose the license to have a preschool.
There are 10,532 day care centers licensed by the department.
The Chula Vista Elementary School district is making some changes. Tune into 10 news at 5:00 to hear what the district is doing.