Students over the years have shared the fear of asking a teacher the question, whether it’s because too many have been caught using it as an excuse to leave class, or because they just don’t want to miss any important information while they’re doing their business. Either way, asking for permission to use the bathroom has always been a risky move. Let’s say, however, that a student finds it in himself to ask to use the restroom, and his teacher shoots the request down with a cold “no.” What do you do? The idea of your bladder bursting is of course unappealing. Students should not have to rely on the permission of a teacher to use the restroom, a regular necessity. High school students enjoy many of the same basic constitutional rights as adults. Like every other citizen, children have the rights to due process and counsel. If we’re extended those privileges, though, is going to the restroom freely so much to ask?
“Some other people might take their phones out and walk around the school during their ‘bathroom break,’” said Liana Bloom ’14, “but I always find that it is more valuable to be in class, rather than going to the bathroom for no reason … so I don’t do that.” Students like Bloom know when to use the restroom, and do realize what they are missing. High schoolers don’t walk down the hallway in a straight line behind their teachers anymore; they should be trusted to make their own decisions. And as for the students who use the restroom as an excuse to skip class, it’s their loss.
Missing five minutes of class can mean missing an important concept. Therefore, some spend their class trying to find a strategic time to go to the restroom—if you walk into class with a full bladder, that is all you will be thinking about for the remainder of the period. Students may watch the teacher, waiting for when he is in a good mood or when success is guaranteed, and only then pop the question. “Sometimes I will wait, if I can sense that [the teacher] will say no,” said Bloom.
Has it really come down to this? Students spending so much of their education time worrying about the bathroom? Unfortunately it has, and teachers need to understand how their students are being affected when teachers say no to bathroom requests. Physical education teacher Carlos Salazar said, “I try to give my students a lot of responsibility—like, if someone says to me that they need to use the restroom, I take it that they really need to use it, and that they are not abusing the purpose of using the restroom.”
Should the accountability lie solely on teachers? At times it can be bewildering that teachers say no, but don’t blame them completely. There are indeed students who “go to the bathroom” in order to get out of class. However, it is about time that teachers progress from those singular incidents and understand what the majority of students know—that we are old enough to know the responsibilities of going to the bathroom during class. “I would hope that the teacher knows me well enough to know that I would come back, and not skip class,” said Mary Srafen ’15. Teachers have done more than enough to reinforce the ideas of responsibility and accountability; it is now up to us to follow through on those ideas while observing nature’s call.
And so, using the restroom during class isn’t a privilege, but a human necessity that shouldn’t be denied. Everyone knows that when you gotta go, you gotta go.