To pee, or not to pee: that is the question

Facing CHS is a dire issue: the freedom to use the bathroom. Teachers’ bathroom policies run across the board in terms of regulations and intensity, raising questions of how much freedom students should have to exercise such a basic right and of whether a district or school-wide uniform policy should be instituted.

Most teachers seem to have a relatively hands-off bathroom policy, as does strategies teacher Brenda Buran.

“I restrict it only if it’s abused,” Buran says about her students’ bathroom use. “So if somebody goes to the bathroom and takes an extended bathroom break, then I don’t let them go to the bathroom again for kind of a time that exists in my mind until I feel like they’ve finished their probation. And then I let them go again with the caveat that they’ll be back in two or three minutes.”

Sophomore Dalton Han Pham agrees with Buran’s view.

Bathroom pass

“Teachers are only restrictive on the bathroom if their students have misused their privileges or freedoms to use it,” Han Pham says.

Buran understands, however, how other teachers may find the need to keep students on a tighter leash, as she feels her classes are different in their small size and relaxed nature.

As of now, there are not any laws, federally or state-wide, against teachers restricting freedom of the bathroom. California attorney Brian Freeman wrote a paper on the issue of people being denied the right to use the bathroom, citing the constitutional “fundamental substantive Due Process right to bodily integrity” and multiple cases of students suing teachers after they were forced to go to the bathroom in their pants.

For example, there was a case earlier this year in which a boy from a Florida school was denied the use of the bathroom—despite having an illness well-documented by the school—and had diarrhea in class, leading to extreme embarrassment and paranoia.

To avoid situations like this, some teachers follow the equitable practice of having kids make up the time lost going to the bathroom after class.

Math teacher Dawn Hatch, for example, gives out five hall passes a quarter for any use outside of class. After that a student cannot leave class unless there is an emergency, in which case the time must be made up outside of class.

Spanish teacher Olga Chandler takes her bathroom policy to the next level by issuing three passes a semester that can be used as extra credit on the final exam, thus adding extra incentive to hold it in.

“I don’t think this policy is draconian, since I, too, like my students, am a human being and can easily handle not going to the bathroom for an hour,” Chandler says.

While a few slips of paper may seem inconsequential in the long run, many students, such as sophomore Sophia Franklin, say these extra credit bathroom passes “can make or break your grade.”

Similarly, science teacher Mike Guardino adds, “I would have a hard time giving somebody academic credit for judicious urination.”

Science teacher Tom Dooner is of a completely different mindset than Chandler, referring to school as a place of freedom and pointing to the flag on his wall when a student asks to use the bathroom.

Sophomore Carter Whitaker is likewise in favor of freedom of restroom use, mentioning English teacher Dale DePalatis’ laid-back policy.

“Mr. DePalatis lets us go whenever we want to,” Whitaker says. “He treats us like adults, and that helps the learning environment.”
-Ari Freedman