By KAREN VELIE
Amid allegations of drug dealing, vaping and sex in bathrooms, Paso Robles High School administrators are locking the bulk of student restrooms for much of the school day, an action that has angered many students and parents.
On social media, several teachers blame bad parenting; parents point the finger at mismanagement; and students plead for the right to use a bathroom when needed. Meanwhile, aside from a 20-minute morning break and a 40-minute lunch break, only two sets of restroom, aside from those affiliated with departments such as physical education, are open most of the day.
“The whole ‘you should be going on your breaks’ is such a cop out,” said Madi Ramirez, a recent graduate of Paso Robles High School. “We had some class periods that were three hours long on block days! It’s not my fault if I went during class, I needed to go. I finally ended up walking across the school, and I don’t recall running into any form of adult supervision, to find a bathroom. Once I went all the way up to Taco Bell and then I got in trouble for being late.”
Students and parents complain of long lines, having to skip lunch to use the restroom, and of leaving campus to find a bathroom.
“Why are bathrooms not available for students to use?” said Tess Serna on Facebook. “That is the big question. If they are vandalized, then clearly there wasn’t enough supervision. Lemme guess, ‘They didn’t have enough staff.’ Well they were tripping over themselves at the district office, so don’t give me that BS.”
Spanish teacher Jen Fuller said when students enter the workforce, they “can’t just get up and use the restroom whenever they want.” Fuller also described some students as vandals whose parents failed to raise them correctly.
“Kids should be in class not goofing off in the bathroom,” Fuller wrote on Facebook. “Students trash the bathrooms. How is this on the school?? That should be something taught at home. Don’t smear your feces all over the wall. Pee in a toilet, not on a pile of paper towels you threw on the floor.”
Parents and school district employees also argue over the meaning of several California codes regarding public school restroom facility requirements.
On the California Department of Education website, under “K-12 toilet requirement summary,” it says one toilet per 30 girls, and one toilet per 50 boys and one urinal per 100 boys.
During non-breaks, the two largest restrooms are kept open, Principal Anthony Overton said. As for the plumbing code listed on the state website, Overton said those are the requirements to open a school, and that the school is not required to keep all bathrooms open during class time.
“By having a limited number of restrooms, we can monitor and make sure students are using them appropriately,” Overton said. “Student have complained about unsafe bathrooms; vaping. With the new policy, we have had no vandalism and no false fire alarms. If it backs up, we open more restrooms”
Diane Waters, the California Department of Education’s senior architect, said schools can close bathrooms temporarily for repairs, but they should not be keeping the bathrooms closed on a regular basis.
“They need to find ways to supervise bathrooms,” Waters said.
Parents can seek state oversight through The Williams Complaint Process. Implemented legislation, the process provides parents a way to correct unsafe or unhealthy facility conditions.
First, parents need to send a letter detailing their complaints to the school principal, who is required to respond within 45 days. If dissatisfied, parents can send an appeal to the state through email@example.com within 15 days of receiving the principal’s response.
At George H. Flamson Middle School in Paso Robles, Principal Tim Vincent, new this year, responded to a question about possible bathroom closures by telling his staff they were required by code to keep them open.
“The upstairs bathrooms will be open,” Vincent said in an August 14 email. “If we closed them, we would be out of compliance with state law. Here’s the link to the required student-to-restroom ratio. In order to meet the ratio, we’ll make sure we have the required number of bathrooms open, unless there is a closure due to a maintenance issue.”