It’s 1:44 PM, you’re sitting in your 7th-period class and the line to go to the bathroom is long. The chances of going to the bathroom in the next 30 minutes are slimming as you watch the clock tick and realize that the student that’s been out for the last 15 minutes isn’t coming back in the immediate future. Within 10 minutes of the end of your class, no more students will be permitted to leave. The dread sinks in when you realize you won’t be able to use the bathroom, especially with the bathrooms locked during passing times. Is there a world where this could be different? How might school bathroom policies be altered to prevent this situation?
While lots of students can relate to this perspective, it’s important to look at this issue from all points of view. The school is trying to cope with a massive learning inequality as remote learning was not equitable and it was very easy for students to be distracted. According to NWEA test statistics, ‘’2020-21 outcomes were lower relative to historic trends. Gains across 2020-21 were at a lower rate and students ended the year with lower levels of achievement compared to a typical year, with larger declines in math (8 to 12 percentile points) than in reading (3 to 6 percentile points). While the fact that we are in-person is a large step in closing the learning gap, the students that are constantly spending prolonged periods of time in the bathroom are receiving less of an education than those who are not skipping parts of their classes. This causes a tremendous problem for WESS. School officials are forced to choose between education, privacy, and free bathroom usage.
One anonymous high school teacher states “It’s unhealthy, and it’s not something that I want to have to deal with on top of my existing duties. I feel obligated to say something when I already have enough going on,” agreeing with the statements above.
The controversies on the school bathroom subject remain high and frankly, that is for a good reason. Lately, school bathrooms have not only been used harmfully for skipping, but also practices like vaping. Obviously, this is a problem that needs to be addressed however, making strict limitations on bathroom usage isn’t helping. Bathrooms at WESS once were a private place where students were able to calm down after having a rough day, a place where teenage girls could lend each other feminine products when needed, but how are these students supposed to react when their privacy has been taken away from them?
Personally, we do not agree with the abusive activities that are taking place in school bathrooms, however, the recent strategies to solve the problem that the school has utilized are not ideal either.
Ninth Grader Anna Fidel mentions some of the difficulties she has faced since WESS implemented the school bathroom policies. Anna exclaims that she “honestly feel like the bathroom policies are an invasion of privacy. When the doors were kept open, it made me uncomfortable to use the restroom. Since the third-floor bathroom is always locked now, it makes it a long commute to find a bathroom. I think we have all felt this. Especially when we try to go find a bathroom between periods and it’s locked and we aren’t sure what we are supposed to do because it’s an emergency.” Multiple anonymous high school students have said the same thing. Chaining bathroom doors to try and compensate for the matter of vaping being practiced in bathrooms is not a way to solve this issue. It is uncomfortable for people and keeping the doors open violates the privacy of people using the bathroom for genuine reasons, and others’ actions should not affect them in such a negative way.
A couple of anonymous middle schoolers mention the struggles that closing the high school bathrooms has caused for them as practices like vaping are moved downstairs to the middle school bathrooms. One middle-schooler exclaimed, “whenever I go to the bathroom I hold in my breath and run out as fast as possible.” Middle schoolers also suggest a solution for the school, they said that the school should open the third-floor bathrooms with a limit on how long students can be out for.
Another possible solution is vape detectors, which can be adjusted for sensitivity. A pitfall of this plan is the price, which is $1,000 for each detector, but the school could try to find sponsorship through an organization specifically aimed at having vape and drug-free schools. While there may not be a perfect solution to the dilemma of bathroom usage, the current systems are not ideal. Alternative solutions include new technology that can be installed in bathrooms. However, it is important to understand the school’s perspectives on this issue and create a solution that doesn’t invade the privacy of students.