On a typical day in high school, the majority of students are excited. Heartbeats quicken, palms begin sweating and worried eyes glance at the clock. No, these students are not about to take the hardest test of their lives, they are in a race against the late bell, waiting to use the restroom.
With taxpayers pouring millions of dollars and lawmakers spending hundreds of hours into optimizing public education, it is shocking to see the state of student restrooms at Glen A. Wilson High School, the best school in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District.
When administrators strive for perfect attendance and less tardiness between classes, they need to understand why students are late.
It is not a matter of will, it is a matter of necessity. At the expense of their bladders bursting—to put it frankly—kids wait it out in classes that penalize them for using the restroom or do so in order to not miss out on some particularly integral lesson. The restroom struggle—strategically planning one’s restroom visits for lack of better options—is very real and growing.
Day in, day out, students line up out the door to relieve themselves during passing periods and during break, with the fear of being late to their next class. Even with the new adjustment of longer passing periods, this restroom issue has yet to be solved by the school.
To put it simply, a school population of twelve hundred should not have to share a meager five bathrooms with many dysfunctional stalls. In regards to state regulations, our school falls short of the minimum restroom stall benchmark.
According to the California Education Code and the California Plumbing Code, calculated with a 50:50 female to male ratio of the school population, the “water closet” (toilet) ratio should be 1:30 for females and 1:50 for males, with a separate urinal ratio of 1:100 for male students. Using these ratios, Wilson’s student population of 1600 students translates to 53 toilet stalls for girls, 16 urinals and 32 toilet stalls for boys—accessible at all times to students.
Currently, as of November 1st 2017, Wilson has eight functioning toilet stalls for girls and two working urinals and toilet stalls for boys. It should be noted that the aforementioned do not include facilities in the gym nor the P.E. locker rooms, as they are not accessible to students during normal school hours.
“Functioning” means flushable toilets and urinals that are clean and usable, with proper working stall doors. On campus, there are stalls where door locks have been broken and unfixed and stall doors that have mysteriously disappeared. Granted there most likely is no budget, or a very limited one, for repairing miscellaneous fixtures such as stall doors.
To be clear, by no means is this a demand for funding to build more restrooms. The issue here is not the lack of physical facilities to accommodate the school population per say, but the lack of facilities available to students.
With so many facilities available on campus, the school’s attention should be brought to the simple solution of this glaring issue. It would be ludicrous to plead ignorance on this issue—especially when the line of students going out the restroom door is clear for all to see.
Concurrently, the shortcomings of the school in providing students with an adequate number of bathrooms cannot be fairly addressed without mentioning the role the student population plays into this issue.
For one, students need to respect the facilities. Trashing the toilets, clogging the sinks, or doing anything that one would not do to their own bathrooms at home should not be done in school restrooms, or any other public facilities for that matter. The actions of a few cannot and should not complicate the matter for others.
Using the facilities the way they are intended to be used is also pertinent to better access of lavatories. While current students may not be aware of previous incidents relating to school restrooms, veteran teachers have witnessed unsupervised restrooms as a hub for student misconduct. In the past, when the school opened up a larger number of restrooms for students, students took advantage of the unsupervised spaces to perform illicit activities and violate the school’s Code of Conduct. Put two and two together and it is no surprise so many restrooms are locked.
And while off-putting experiences from past decades may discourage the school from reopening all the closed restrooms on campus, the entire student population today should not have to deal with the problems stirred up by past students.
Nevertheless, restroom regulations are regulations, the required amount of usable facilities are present and being able to access a toilet without interference to education should not be considered a privilege that needs to be earned.
The first step to freer bladders would be observing and understanding the student perspective. Calling the Principal’s Advisory Committee would be an easy and simple start.
Too often, we as students lack the proactivity to come together and address an issue. Too often students brush off the “simple” inconvenience as a “maybe it’s just me” problem. But when you sit down and think about just how ridiculous this issue is next time, do not just sit there. Get up and do something about it.