A 10-year-old student in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., claims he was wrongfully suspended for having his camera out in the restroom. Phillip Wiggins is albino and the congenital disorder affects his eyes and makes it difficult to see.
"He is albino, which means he has no pigment in his skin and very little pigment in his eyes," his mother, Lucille Wiggins, told WPTV.
Phillip said during a field trip to St. Augustine, another student pushed him up against a bathroom wall and made his camera fall out of his pocket. A teacher heard the bully laugh and entered the restroom. When she saw Phillip’s camera in his hand, she assumed he was taking photos in the bathroom. Six days later, he was called into the assistant principal’s office. When Phillip refused to confirm the teacher’s claim, he was suspended from school.
"I had my camera in my pocket," Philip said. "It fell out, and when I was about to put it in my pocket some kid pushed me up against the stall. My feet slipped under me and I was trying to pick myself back up. He started laughing and he left the room. The teacher only saw what was happening for two seconds and heard the laughing. She supposed I was trying to take a picture of a kid.”
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Phillip said when he was called to the office he would not admit to something he did not do.
"They threatened they would call [Department of Children and Families] and the police, and I was afraid they would take me away from my mom and take me to prison," he said. "In my head I was thinking they are wrong. I wasn't going to lie and say I did it. I was keeping my ground."
Disciplinary reports from the school said the teacher, "witnessed Phillip standing near a bathroom stall with his camera over the wall of the stall and in the process of taking a picture of another student using the bathroom."
Disability laws in the Palm Beach County School District require the parent to be called before action is taken. An attorney for the family, Dena Sisk Foman, said the school violated that protocol.
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"You can't pull a child in there and accuse them of something this heinous and threaten them with calling DCF and the police before you have investigated the claim or at least called the parent," Foman said. "Because he is disabled, he is entitled to additional due process protections."
Phillip explained how little he can actually see in an interview with WPTV’s Brian Entin.
“I usually can’t see, like this way, this way,” he said, turning his head from side to side. “In fact, I can barely see back there,” he adds, pointing to a wall just a few feet away from him.
Phillip’s mother said her son has never been in trouble before.
"I feel they are doing this because I'm a single parent and they don't think I have the financial means to bring attention to a situation where my son was wronged," Lucille Wiggins said.
Foman said she is working to send Phillip to private school next year.
The DCF launched an investigation into the incident on June 5, according to a spokeswoman.