Hold it: Rethink Bathroom Policies

FHS Faculty Restroom, also unavailable to students. Photo by Erin Ohnemus

FHS Faculty Restroom, also unavailable to students. Photo by Erin Ohnemus

Erin Ohnemus

Across the country students, parents, and teachers are debating bathroom policies in school. This topic is strongly under debate because it affects and applies to all people. Teachers are allowed to deny students permission to leave class to use the bathroom, but many are strongly opposed to that practice.

According to the Franklin High School Handbook

“Teachers may use reasonable discretion in asking students to wait to use a restroom”.

Most teachers allow students to go if it is “an emergency”, but it is not fair to require a high school student to announce their situation. Although students are told to use the bathroom between class periods, the short locker breaks are not enough time to stop off for a bathroom break, especially because if that is the only available time there will be long lines leading to students arriving late to class. This policy could be greatly improved to be more fair and sensible for students.

In other school districts this problem is addressed with limited bathroom pass policies. For example, students can be given an allotted amount of bathroom passes per week or semester. These policies help to ensure students are not using the bathroom too frequently and missing class time. This sounds like a good idea, but how can a student plan out when and how often they will need to use the bathroom over a long span of time?

Other schools take away class participation points for making bathroom trips. Although these strategies allow students to use the bathroom, they also turn using the bathroom into a punishable offense.

Students should be allowed to excuse themselves to go to the bathroom due to both medical reasons and basic human rights. Infections and damage to the bladder and even brain can result from not using the bathroom in a timely manner. It is possible for damage to be done in as little as 30 minutes, so requiring students to wait up to an hour is dangerous to their health. On a larger scale, it is illogical that students can be denied the right to use the bathroom.

High school students are given the responsibilities of driving, having a job, paying bills, and even choosing a college or career, so they should be given the responsibility of managing their own trips to the bathroom. Pediatric urologist Christopher Cooper explains:

“Responding to your body’s need to urinate or defecate is a basic human right, or even one step below that, it’s a basic animal right”, says Cooper.

A reasonable solution to this problem is keeping strict bathroom logs that can later be used to address any abuse of bathroom passes. Students signing in and out is not distracting to the class, and allows students to be easily accounted for in case of school emergency.

If a student is misusing this policy then teachers should address the problem and create a restricted system for the individual if necessary. This system is supported by American Federation of Teachers, a union of 1.4 million educators and administrators, as a reasonable bathroom policy.

High school students should not be denied the ability to leave class to use the bathroom. It is unjust to cause students to stress over being punished or penalized for needing to briefly leave class. Requiring students to log out and in provides an undisruptive way to account for each student while still giving them the freedom to manage their own bathroom trips.