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Bathroom Policy Politics

High school restricts bathroom usage as a form of "hallway management"

Junior Isha Dhakal sits on ledge in bathroom during study hall, one of the only times she has available to use the restroom. "I think the bathroom policy is a bad idea because it restricts students autonomy," Dhakal said. 

There was a set of new policies introduced at Westside High School throughout October and the beginning of November, they ranged from use of headphones, music, and personal devices, to the “No-Go Zones” (hallways that cannot be accessed during class times), to limitations of restroom usage.

On November 8th, principal Jay Opperman sent out an email to the student body and staff – detailing the new management of earbuds, and phone usage in class. What it did not mention, was the new bathroom policy. There was a staff meeting held about the policy at hand, according to several instructors, Opperman asked teachers to be more restrictive of bathroom use, and to restrict usage to passing periods.

This policy now leaves students using a passing period, which is five minutes long, to use the restroom. This includes travelling from one classroom to the next, using the restroom, and getting seated in class by the time the bell rings. I wondered if this was possible, so, I put it to the test.

Bell #1: 9:00 a.m.

Bathroom arrival: 9:03 a.m.

Time to use restroom: one minute

Time to wash hands: 20 seconds

Time to dry hands: 30 seconds

Time allotted to exit the bathroom and go to class: 30 seconds

Time arrived at classroom: 9:05:20

Total time: five minutes and 20 seconds

I left from French 4 Honors in room 125 (first floor), and headed to my pre-calculus class in room 316 (third floor). I walked faster than the average speed, went through the quickest path, which included the landing (busiest place of the school because it leads to every single hallway). The restroom had six bathroom stalls and there were four other people in the restroom upon the time of arrival. There are many other variables that could be tested, including the hallways, walking speed, number of stalls, number of people there, classroom A to classroom B, and many others.

With this, and three other times it was tested, it is nearly impossible to make it to the restroom and class without being late. Even while rushing.

When a student is told to ‘hold it’, what happens?

“Students must be allowed to use the restroom when the urge arises –not 10 or 20 or 60 minutes later. It’s a health issue, and it’s no joke,” said Dr. Steve Hodges, a pediatric urologist at the Wake Forest University Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “Suppressing the urge to pee can damage a growing bladder, thickening and aggravating the bladder wall and increasing a child’s risk for accidents, bedwetting, and urinary tract infections.”

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), there are effects that lead to an increased risk of developing bacteria, and higher chances of developing a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection), one of them include emptying your bladder as soon as you feel the urge or about every two-three hours.

However, there is some legal issues the school can get into. Although there is no law for the state of Nebraska that governs denial of a student’s rights to use the restroom. But the situation can get worse if a female student is denied the chance to change her pants when her period arrives early.

According to Michael Kennedy, an attorney that has dealt with education law and is the current President of the Millard North School Board, another school in Omaha. If a student has to hold their bladder and they have a condition that worsens or even causes a visit to the hospital or doctor, the school could be found liable for tort of infliction of emotional distress. That student would then have to deal with embarrassments throughout the day and until they get home, or fix the issue and end up late to class. The same result comes from students with a medical condition such as a weak bladder and Crohn’s disease. Medical conditions should be previously filed with the school. Due to this, the school could be found liable.

Kennedy said, this policy is commonly referred to as a ‘blanket policy’. All students must abide by this bathroom policy, despite having possible medical conditions, and menstruation, unless they explain their emergency. In simple words, it is taking a small percent of the study body who don’t follow the rules, and punishing everyone in turn.

Students who need to use the restroom shouldn’t have to explain why they need to, this policy isn’t a way to reduce hallway access or reduce trouble, but rather a way to reduce students autonomy. The question that this is even up for debate is ridiculous, a student should not have to explain why they need to use the restroom or explain why it is an emergency.

Westside high school is supposed to be a college preparatory school, but this type of policy is treating us like children, not soon-to-be mature adults like we’re supposed to. 

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