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The contest: School offers prizes if kids hold it in

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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.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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