Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Restroom break ban for high schoolers?

It has been some three decades since I navigated the halls of a high school on a regular basis, yet I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read the reports in the Tinley Park-based Southtown Star newspaper that are making southwest suburban Evergreen Park High School a place worthy of national news attention.

For officials there are implementing a new policy that they say will increase the amount of time that students spend in the classroom. They’re putting restrictions on restroom breaks.

UNDER THE NEW policy, teachers are to keep track of how many times their students ask for permission to go to the restroom during class. Any student who takes more than three breaks per semester from any one class will be required to stay after school to make up the time they used to release potentially-deadly toxins from their bodies.

It’s not quite detention for using the potty. But it has the same feel.

Now I will be the first to admit that I fully believe some students are abusing the idea of restroom breaks – using them as an excuse to leave classes they find particularly dull (or teachers whom they find to be particularly obnoxious in personality).

I’m sure there are some students who would spend as much of their time as possible in the restroom – when they couldn’t be in the cafeteria (particularly since schools these days seem to be watching those lunchrooms much more closely than they did when I was a high school student).

YET THE IDEA makes me laugh a lot because I can remember back to when I was a high school student and I used to go out of my way to avoid using the restrooms at school.

I also remember that I was not alone among the student body. There were many of us who weren’t enthused about the school restrooms.

Now I’m not about to share horror stories of aging facilities that stank from decades of urine and other foul odors. I actually attended a high school that was less than a decade old when I was there. Everything about the building reeked of cleanliness and sterility.

It was a cleanliness freak’s dream.

BUT NOW WE can cue in our minds that old song by Brownsville Station. “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.” There were those students (probably the parents of the current restroom malcontents) who tried to spend their time in the “facilities” rather than try to learn something in class.

Which means that one of the unofficial things that a student tried to keep in mind was which of the restrooms was going to stink not of human waste, but of cigarette smoke. Which ones were likely to be filled with students who might not be too concerned about breaking rules, and might try harassment just for kicks.

Then again, they may want to harass, but might have been so stoned that they wouldn’t have been physically capable of doing too much.

With that in mind, it just became more practical to think of restroom functions as something to be avoided unless necessary.

HOW STRONG WAS this sentiment in my mind?

I recently had to go back to my old high school as a reporter-type person to cover a news event. During the event, I felt that urge that couldn’t be withheld.

So I went and found a “boy’s room” and did my business – when it suddenly occurred to me that I was in one of the restrooms that I would have tried to avoid as a student.

So some 28 years after graduation, I finally “did my business” in one of those rooms (which I must admit stunk from decades of tobacco fumes – even though the whole building now is officially a “no smoking” zone).

I AS A student would have fought to avoid the restroom, while it seems officials at Evergreen Park High School are determined to spend their academic careers in “the loo.”

Have teenagers really changed that much in three decades’ time? I doubt it. Somehow, it seems to me that school administrators have come up with an over-reaction to a problem – one that will do nothing to resolve the situation.

For I don’t see how “after school” sessions will do anything to truly make up for class time lost due to a restroom break. Is someone clocking students to see how long they were on “the potty?”

Does this mean teachers will have to stay after school to try to re-teach what was already taught? Or will students merely sit pointlessly in a quiet room after school?

WHAT A WASTE of time!

But it does show that at least one thing hasn’t changed about high school throughout the years – there are always bound to be some school administrators whose reaction to a situation will be a layer of bureaucratic nonsense.

It’s no wonder that, for me, high school was something to be endured before I could go off to college – which is where life truly became enjoyable.


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