By Isabel Hicks
The school has recently faced many issues involving drug use (vaping and fentanyl), alcohol use, sexual activity, vandalism, and graffiti in school, especially in the school bathrooms.
As a result of these behavioral issues, the school cracked down on all school policies, most prominently the bathroom regulations. Teachers are also now more strictly enforcing the rule that students cannot use the bathroom within the first ten minutes of class and the last ten minutes ,unless it is an emergency. Many teachers have given a ten minute limit on how long students can be out of the classroom, and only allow one student to be out of the class at any given time.
On top of this, some teachers have even implemented stricter bathroom rules on their own. In some classes you are only allowed to use the bathroom a total of three times in the semester, and if you don’t use any of the passes they become extra credit. This policy is unacceptable and, if informed, the administration will meet with those teachers to give them guidance.
However, students with legitimate medical needs have been identified and issued special passes. If a student frequently leaves class, there is often a phone call home to see if there is a medical reason.
For the past year, constant fire alarms have been going off at random times during the day because of students vaping in the bathroom. This is a huge nuisance to both teachers and students alike, but has even bigger implications because it poses a safety hazard. Students no longer take the fire alarm seriously, desensitized because of its frequency, and don’t react the way they should at the sound. In case of a real fire, no one would move because we’d collectively assume it was just some kid in the bathroom who set it off by accident.
This semester the fire alarms have decreased significantly, in part due to the new policy. Additionally, the school plans to implement vape sensors in the bathrooms in order to detect immediately which alarms are real threats and which are just students vaping in the bathrooms.
Beginning this year, the school has closed many of the bathrooms with the exception of the A building and H building bathrooms during class time. However, all bathrooms are open during nutrition and lunch.
Although we can understand where these policies are coming from, they are not the solution. These policies make it hard for everyone to use the bathroom and are impractical for learning.
These bathroom regulations are at the forefront of student’s minds more than we may realize. If I’m thirsty, I have to calculate how much I can drink or during what periods I’ll be able to use the bathroom so that I don’t spend the whole period bouncing my leg needing to pee. And if I have a test, then now I can’t leave to use the bathroom and can’t concentrate.
Although every bathroom is open during nutrition and lunch, at the beginning of each break, the lines are long and slow moving. Although they do decrease towards the end of the break, it’s inconvenient to have to wait another ten minutes to use the bathroom after waiting two periods.
The regulations restricting bathroom usage are also disproportionately detrimental to girls. It’s every girl’s nightmare to get their period during class and not be able to use the bathroom right when they need to. It becomes even more uncomfortable when using feminine products while being rushed by the security guards and merely trying to get a few minutes of privacy.
Despite these inconveniences, the administration was put between a rock and a hard place when developing a solution to this. Constant vandalism was and continues to be a huge issue to the school, and the damage of school property costs the school a lot of money. Students were shoving alcohol containers, vape boxes, and other items down the toilets, which in turn, messed up the plumbing and required the school to hire plumbers to fix the system, among other issues.
Perhaps the school needs to enforce harsher punishments on offenses for vaping in the bathrooms. According to the student handbook, consequences for possessing or using drugs, tobacco, and alcohol can include suspension, exclusion from extracurriculars, and even expulsion. The school will also report vaping to the school police. The majority of students, however, are only receiving phone calls home.
When students are caught, they are often assigned to redirection and reeducation, which works to improve behavior by educating students on drug use and providing alternative behavior options. They are also assigned required online classes.
The school has also implemented student support groups for drug and alcohol use in addition to hosting informational town hall meetings for parents and students regarding these types of issues. Students even attended a vaping and drug prevention assembly in PE classes last fall.
To truly combat vaping in teens, the school must approach the issue holistically. They must first educate their staff on vaping, so they are aware of the signs and are able to intervene. Next, they must educate the student body as a whole, through all-school assemblies or guest speakers in classes, or even as part of a required curriculum. It is important that the administration makes it clear that the school will not tolerance drug use.
When issuing consequences students, the school should continue to use educational efforts in addition to traditional punishments. Students should also be required to talk to a Wellness Center counselor as part of their punishment. In order to address the root of the problem, the school should also develop ways to incentivize addicted students to quit drugs.