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Moving Beyond Reactive School Policies

High schools should address harmful student behavior proactively rather than reactively.

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Passionate about using journalism to help make schools a more inclusive place for all students. Usually listening to music, reading novels or watching Ted Talks. Lover of dance, orange juice and This Is Us.

(Image Source: iStock)

It was one of the most aggravating mornings of my life.  I get to school at about 7:03 A.M. every day.  That gives me about 17 minutes to talk to teachers, talk to my friends, and do anything I need to do before class starts at 7:20.  In fact, the perfect time to use the bathroom would be during that time. 

Incredibly hot and sweaty from running to get to the bus, I needed to dry my face.  I walked towards the closest bathroom to get a paper towel.  However, the bathroom is locked.  I then decided to go to another bathroom.  Locked as well.  Hopeless, I went upstairs to see if the bathroom up there was open.  Just as I suspected, that bathroom was locked as well.

Annoyed and hot, I walked to my first class of the day.

Viral TikTok challenges such as “devious licks” and other inappropriate bathroom behavior have caused schools to respond in a variety of different ways.  Despite the TikTok trend being fairly new, my school has dealt with issues like this for years.

Due to student vaping in the bathrooms, my school has responded to this issue by limiting bathroom use for years now.  Bathrooms are locked, usually multiple at a time. While this has prevented students from indulging in irresponsible behaviors, it has also punished the majority of students who use the bathrooms appropriately.

“The locked bathroom situation at Jonathan Law is very inconvenient.  Sometimes I spend 5 minutes alone looking for an open one.  The bathroom is locked during passing time as well which I believe is a bad idea.  It’s the only time students can go without missing class,” said Shruti Simhadri, a junior at Jonathan Law High School.

As a solution, administrators (initially) decided to make a schedule of which bathrooms are open at what time. The schedule was announced on the morning news every day.  While this initially worked, it received negative feedback from students.

“I don’t like the timings of when some are locked and some aren’t.  To use the bathroom, I shouldn’t have to memorize a schedule to know when I can go,” Simhadri added.

Students at Jonathan Law are especially frustrated because, despite all this, there are still rules punishing students if they are outside of the classroom for an extended period of time.

While school administrators must act to help address this issue, all students shouldn’t have to be punished.  Most students use the bathroom to just use the bathroom.  There are other ways like making sure students know the impacts of vaping that can help decrease the number of students who vape in school and at home.

Schools like mine all around the country have a terrible problem with over-policing students. The question this raises is how strict is too strict?