When schools tell kids they can’t use the bathroom
Most people probably take their bathroom privileges for granted, heading to the toilet in their home or office whenever the need arises without thinking much about it. But at school, children don’t always have that luxury.
A recent survey by the Society for Women’s Health Research found that schools often disregard kids’ restroom rights, often by failing to have a bathroom rule on the books and provide staff with education on bladder health. Absent official policies, parents and doctors tell me, many teachers come up with their own regulations, which anecdotes suggest can border on absurd. I heard about a teacher who allegedly stipulated that her students could only go to the restroom during class time once every two months, for instance, and read about some school districts routinely locking restrooms at lunchtime or after school to discourage misbehavior.
Schools seek to minimize the amount of time kids spend in the bathroom during class to ensure that they get the most out of their instruction, and generally restrict students’ access to prevent misconduct in the restrooms, where kids tend to be unsupervised. Well-intentioned yet overburdened teachers might adopt such rules to avoid disruptions and ensure that all their students are accounted for. But treating bathroom use as a discipline issue can have serious health implications, especially when a kid needs to go, but can’t.