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Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

Potty politics

District policy limits bathroom access
Graphic by Clarissa Li
District policy states the first 15 and last 15 minutes of class cannot be used to go to the restroom.

If you gotta go, you gotta go… as long as it isn’t the first or last 15 minutes of class.

According to new district rules, students are only allowed to use the bathroom during “Pass Permit Times,” which equals roughly 22 minutes. According to the posted bell schedule, the permit time does not include the first and last 15 minutes of class. The bottom of the sign does say that students cannot receive hall passes “unless it is an emergency.”

Before I talk about my experience with this rule, let me just say that I was not having an “emergency.”

I had been waiting to go to the bathroom for three hours. The distance between my previous three classes was too long, and the long lines spilling out of the restrooms meant that I’d have to wait, unless I was ready to risk being tardy. So I held it, praying that I’d get a chance to go in seventh period.

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Of course, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go until the infamous 15 minutes had passed, so I didn’t even bother to ask. 3:18…3:19….3:22…the time slowly ticked by. I waited for what felt like eternity. My knee bounced, pencils scribbled.

The agony of having to wait was unbearable.

I tried to pay attention. I really did, but I just couldn’t focus. Once you start thinking about having to use the restroom, you don’t think about anything else. All I could do was watch the clock.

As the end of the 15 minutes approached, a student sitting in front of me asked to go to the bathroom. The teacher said yes. I was hoping to be next; I had been waiting all this time. Before a minute had passed, the student returned.

“What happened?” our teacher asked.

“They wouldn’t let me go.”

Next thing you know, a hall monitor asked my teacher to come outside.

Our teacher finally came back into the room and reminded us that nobody could use the bathroom until 15 minutes had passed.

The 15-minute rule doesn’t even make any sense. Why does it matter if people use the restrooms at the beginning or end of class? It actually makes the most sense to go at those times because the 25 minutes in the middle of the class is most likely when teachers will be teaching. I’d rather use the bathroom when a teacher is giving a warm-up or exit ticket than when they are actually teaching a lesson.

Teachers should not be monitoring who goes to the bathroom during their conference periods. The main reason teachers are given this time is so they can meet with administrators and parents, plan lessons, and grade tremendous amounts of work. Neurotically monitoring restrooms is not their job.

The new bathroom policy doesn’t just take away time from teachers. It takes time from students. No one is going to be able to focus on classwork if they really have to go to the bathroom. Sitting in class and checking the clock every five seconds until the 15 minutes are up is absurd. If you gotta go, you gotta go.

Also, can we talk a little about the medical side? Holding it in can have serious consequences, such as pain, urinary tract infections, pelvic muscle damage, etc. Postponing students’ ability to use the restroom can physically harm them, especially students who have underlying medical conditions.

And let’s not kid ourselves, the bathroom policy disproportionately affects people who have periods. If you don’t menstruate, it can be hard to understand the panic and embarrassment that comes with handling it at school. Getting into the bathroom to change a pad or tampon always takes priority, especially because of Toxic Shock Syndrome, which can be life-threatening.

Obviously, we have these rules in place for a reason. Students have skipped class, vaped and even set fires in the bathroom. But what about the kids who don’t do that? What about the kids who really, really have to use the bathroom?

One of the many schedules posted around the school at the beginning of the year. Hall passes are only allowed for the middle 22 minutes of class, and they are color coded according to the region of the building. For example, blue hall passes are restricted to the academic wing. (Hannah Turner)

I realize that teachers and administrators aren’t trying to agitate us by enforcing the new bathroom policies, but a lot of the time, it feels like punishment. Instead of policing bathroom use so strictly, I’d like to recommend a new solution: SmartPass.

SmartPass is an app that could drastically decrease the number of kids skipping class. Basically, a student can send a hall pass request to their teacher from their laptop on SmartPass. The student will still take a plastic hall pass to go down the hall, but once they get to the bathroom, they present the pass to the hall monitor. Then, they will go to the restroom, pick up their bathroom pass and go back to class.

SmartPass has proven to keep kids in classrooms, and over 1,000 schools use it already. SmartPass even allows students to anonymously report vaping in restrooms and is compatible with PowerSchool.

And yes, bathroom monitors are still needed, but that is easily solved. Instead of having teachers monitor restrooms, the school should get student teaching assistants or office workers to do that instead. With next year’s schedule including eight class periods, I know plenty of seniors who would gladly become a teaching assistant.

Using SmartPass negates the need for the 15-minute rule. It might seem like a drastic solution, but if it allows me to go to the bathroom without having to wait three periods, I’ll take it.

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    Rilina TranApr 14, 2024 at 9:37 pm

    Great story!! It’s so relatable and it reminded me of when I got hall swept when in the restroom.