No place to go

Bethel students frustrated by bathroom closures
No place to go

“Sometimes when I have to use the restroom, I have to wander around looking for one that is available,” Desirie Dearcy, a senior, shared. “Even if one is open, it is usually crowded and not accessible.” 

In this experience, Desirie is not alone. Since the fall, staff have been closing certain bathrooms around Bethel due to concerns over attendance and safety. The school population is over 1,700 but only 3 bathrooms are now open most of the time. For many students, this policy is not only inconvenient, but frustrating.

Why are Bethel staff members locking some of the bathrooms in the most well-traveled areas? Officially, the objective is to prevent tardiness and discourage skipping, vaping, bullying, drug use, and vandalism.

Denise Penn

Bethel is not the only school to have adopted this approach; around the US, more and more schools have started to close bathrooms for similar reasons. In Maryland, there was a school with several incidents, one involving a “nonfatal potential fentanyl overdose” in the bathroom. This incident caused the school to limit use of the bathrooms during transition times. There was also a school in North Carolina that shut down half of its bathrooms due to the fire alarms going off from vaping.

That one [bathroom] was closer there and had to go there, and it was locked,” Aaliyah Davis, a junior, said. “ I had to go all the way over here, and I was late to class.”

Many students shared similar experiences; they feel like closing the bathrooms is increasing tardiness rather than reducing it. However, students also recognized that some of their peers are using bathrooms for vaping and smoking, which continue to be a problem in spite of the bathroom closures.

“It smells foul in there [in the bathroom near the gym] everyday,” Cordell Moore, another junior, stated. “I’m not going to lie; sometimes, during lunch, there is a coalition of vapers.”

Jenna Glendenning

Security staff consider locking certain bathrooms a key part of this year’s “on-time initiative.” When interviewed, Security Officer Valentine seemed optimistic that the policy would work given time.

 “I think it’ll be uphill going on to next semester, and next school year,” Valentine stated. “ [It comes down to] the Dean what they want to really do with it and how they want to go about it.”

The current bathroom policy has many flaws. With time, the policy may improve and change, but for now, it does not do enough to prioritize students’ needs and concerns. Moving forward, the school could consider having someone monitor the bathrooms to make sure no one is smoking or skipping. If the school has someone monitoring bathrooms instead of locking them, students will not have to walk all the way across the school just to use the bathroom.

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