A high school in downtown Brooklyn only let its 634 students use one bathroom while keeping four other fully functional bathrooms locked. Administrators made students wait in lines at least a dozen students long at one bathroom in the nurse’s office in order to, they say, prevent students from misbehaving and getting into trouble in the bathrooms. A second bathroom had been open at the beginning of the instructional year, but administrators put it under lock after the aide who supervised it quit.
The high school’s principal, Judy Henry, said through a Department of Education spokesperson — Henry herself did not return “multiple calls for comment” — that students were allowed to use one bathroom for only one day. But “two dozen students and two school workers” countered this statement.
16-year-old Kianna Cole started a petition to get Science Skills High School Center to open up more than one bathroom. She collected around 200 signatures; the school opened the additional restrooms before she was able to deliver the petition.
Making sufficient, and sanitary, bathrooms available for students is simply fundamental for any school. Cole describes the inhumane conditions in the one bathroom the Science Hills Center High School students were able to use:
“It was awful – and not just the smell or the line. It was the pee all over the place and the terrible plumbing.”
The administrators’ strategy for cutting down on disciplinary problems has only created more headaches, as well as exposing students and staff to unsanitary conditions. The school has to figure out ways to address the disciplinary issues while not penalizing all students many of whom, while there was only one bathroom open, were in danger of being late to class as they waited in line. At a time when many school districts are trying to cut down costs, it seems likely that we could hear more stories about schools shutting down even what you’d think are essential facilities, not to mention letting go of aides and staff.
Of course, there can’t have been only one bathroom open at Science Hills Center High School. The administrators had to answer the call of nature as much as the students and, based on the conditions of the one bathroom allotted to students, it’s likely the principal and others might have preferred to go elsewhere.
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