Behind Closed Stalls: A Look into School Bathrooms
January 18, 2023
School administrators are cracking down on bathroom use statewide due to the bathroom atmosphere being plagued by vaping, vandalizing, and, in general, poor choices.
Students emphatically insist that access to bathrooms at any given time is a human right. Ohchr.org, organized by the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner writes,”The human right to sanitation entitles everyone, without discrimination, to have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, socially and culturally acceptable and that provides privacy and ensures dignity.”
This implies that schools cannot close restrooms and must also keep them clean and dignified. This is nearly
impossible with some of the behavior that occurs in the bathrooms in the first place.
Regardless of sides, it is evident that an issue is at hand: About 80% of educators included in a National Library of Medicine survey agreed that bullying, misbehavior, vandalism, and other negative behavior occurs in bathrooms.
Between the confusion and disagreement is a group of students that actually needs to utilize the restroom. Sadly, these students feel unsafe or as though they are seen as guilty for using the bathroom during school hours.
Although seemingly ridiculous, teenage students feel afraid to use bathrooms in their schools.
However, solutions are possible.
A sign-in and sign-out system for bathrooms has been introduced in public schools recently, e-hallpass, which electronically regulates the amount of students permitted to use a certain restroom at once, preventing issues such as: planned fights, vaping in groups and, due to timestamps, vandalization.
Stopping student gatherings and limiting time outside of the classroom, e-hallpass offers solutions to class-skipping, hazing and sharing of vape devices.
“The goal [is that] bathrooms should be open for people wanting to use the bathroom…not as a hangout or a place to go meet or do things that they should not be doing at school,” said principal Kevin Molin.
School administrators aim to provide a safe bathroom experience to those who require it, while still regulating the areas.
Generally, schools attempt to fight bathroom misconduct with policies intending to prevent issues with threats of punishment as well as, in the case of Slippery Rock Area High School, closing bathrooms between periods.
This is the best way to prevent washroom-related issues in all schools. Hallway traffic is challenging to direct and control between periods, allowing students to enter restrooms either unrestricted or before a monitor can prevent them from doing so.
Locking bathrooms makes access impossible to the student body, forcing any student that wishes to use the bathroom to ask an authority figure during class time.
Locking restrooms during this time, when paired with the new e-hallpass system implemented recently in Susquehannock High school, controls traffic. Responsible students will be regarded with trust and will be enabled to use the restroom.
Finally, stopping the root causes of bathroom privilege abuse- meaning vaping, fighting, vandalism, and skipping class-would prevent misuse in the first place.
Usually, schools usually have policies set into place regarding the use of tobacco products, not unlike Susquehannock.
According to page 38 of the Suquehannock student handbook, nicotine products are a safety hazard,” In order to protect students and staff from the safety hazards of smoking and from an environment noxious to non-smokers, the Board prohibits possession, use or sale of tobacco, nicotine and nicotine delivery products by students at any time in a school building, on any property, buses, vans and vehicles that are owned, leased or controlled by the school district, and at schoolsponsored activities that are held off school property.”
Such products are commonly used in the restrooms, making them an unsafe area. This has caused the school board to put in place strict disciplinary policies regarding vapes and other products.
“Students who violate this policy will receive disciplinary consequences and will be referred to the local magistrate for a possible fine plus court costs or alternate adjudication,” according to page 38 of the Susquehannock student handbook.
A step further in the right direction would be to educate teens regarding the negative effects of vaping because not all students fear legal consequences.
Kidshealth.org narrows down why vaping is bad for teens using more relatable reasons. Vaping is expensive, can ruin sports for student-athletes, and causes depression and anxiety.
These youth-relatable reasons could prevent vaping, which would inhibit bathroom misconduct.
All in all, there is no singular solution to ensuring safety in school bathrooms, but combining these three changes will create a better restroom environment for those wishing to properly use the areas.
If school bathrooms are to improve, e-hallpass needs to be implemented to regulate use during periods, closing restrooms between periods or at least monitoring them is necessary, and treating the root cause, vaping, is extremely important.