Locking up the Lavatories

March 18, 2022

Unfortunately for students, these three problems have had one solution in the eyes of Frederick’s administration: lock the bathroom doors. During the day, when a fixture is damaged or obscene graffiti is etched into a door, the bathroom is locked up until the repairs have been made. At night, the bathrooms are locked after the evening custodians finish cleaning them–otherwise, they won’t stay clean until morning. Bathrooms are also locked at certain times to deter students from using them as a hangout or a place to vape.

This all makes sense, but there is one big issue: when you have to go, you have to go.

In the past couple of months, students have had to walk halfway across the school to find an open restroom. One such student, junior Ezra McDaniel, told us that “it’s just annoying. All of us who need to use the bathroom as a bathroom are being punished for something we don’t do.” The adults agree: It also sucks when others have to pay the price when the bathrooms get locked,” Mr. Barela said. A couple of students we spoke that wished to remain anonymous had even looked up state law to see if locking the bathrooms was legal (it is) and if it violated any student rights (it doesn’t, since students can request to use the restrooms in the office, where supervision is better).

To help alleviate the issue, the school started requiring teachers to send students with bathroom passes starting in January. “We just need to know where our kids are and we need to make sure that they’re learning,” Assistant Principal Doug Jackson told us. “We understand it’s a big school and it’s hard to get to the restroom between passing periods all the time. So you can use the restroom during class, but the trade-off is that we need accountability.”

Unfortunately, this hasn’t done much to help. Many teachers feel the passes are a health hazard: “It’s good to know who is out in the halls, but I don’t like people touching my stuff with pee on their hands,” said science teacher Mark Allen. Bathroom passes also don’t stop students who have an off-block or ditch class from accessing the restroom. Teachers are also very inclined to always let students use the bathroom out of fear of reprisal. “A couple of years ago, I had a girl that was abusing her bathroom privileges every day, being gone for sometimes 45 minutes at a time,” one teacher (who wished to remain anonymous) told us. “One day, I told her no, she had to stay in class. Later that day, her parents had their lawyer call the school and I was written up for not letting her go.”

Some students and faculty have been advocating for cameras in the bathrooms to catch the bad actors ruining our facilities, but “for reasons that make a lot of sense, we can’t have cameras in there obviously,” according to Mr. Jackson. “We can have cameras in the hallways and things like that, but we don’t always know exactly what is happening in the restrooms. There have been a couple of instances of students vaping in the restrooms where we knew who was in the bathroom but not who was the one committing a crime.”

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