School bathrooms create feelings of injustice

 Long line forming at the door of the girls’ bathroom in the F-Hall building during break (Photo: Annika Umholtz, The Puma Prensa)

By Annika Umholtz, Staff Writer

Maria Carrillo High School’s bathrooms have been at the top of students’ complaint lists for years now. Whether it was graffiti, vaping, the clown-car-like stalls with multiple students filing out of one toilet, or the bathroom door that’s always broken in the girls’ bathroom, there have always been a large number of problems. But recently, a far more important problem has finally started gaining some attention: the bathrooms aren’t accessible to students. 

Looking at the MCHS map, it’s clear that on the entirety of the campus there are 25 bathrooms, but only four of those are always available to students. The girls’ bathrooms provide a total of 10 stalls and the boys’ bathrooms add up to four stalls and six urinals. The other existing bathrooms are either staff only or they’re only available to students occasionally, like the ones in the theater and locker rooms which aren’t intended for common use. So, four bathrooms are all we get, but is that all we’re supposed to have?

According to the regulations dictated by the California Department of Education, as of 2016, the California Plumbing Code requires there to be one toilet for every 30 female students, one toilet for every 50 male students, and one urinal for every 100 male students. Our school’s student body has a population of about 1,600, so based on those numbers, the CDE requires that the school have a total of 43 toilets and eight urinals available to students at all times. 

If the school’s 21 other bathrooms were consistently available for students, then Carrillo may meet those demands, but they’re not. And all of this is without even mentioning the needs of students who don’t see themselves neatly fitting into one of those two gender categories. When it comes to gender-non-specific students the CDE only provides guidelines for inclusive education and learning materials. Their official website does not address any required non-gender-specific facilities. 

That being said, there is only one bathroom at Carrillo that can be used by any type of student—the bathroom in the health office—and even then it’s on a case-by-case basis. It’s strictly available to people with health or medical needs, but depending on a student’s circumstances they can be given special permission to use it. “The lack of gender-neutral bathrooms [was] really disappointing,” Sullivan Rodriguez, a non-binary senior, expressed. The Health Technician, Karen Lloyd, who runs the health office and has to unlock the door every time a student needs the restroom, agreed that there’s a problem, adding that she remembered when her “needs weren’t always met as an individual,” and how “it made [her] feel very uncomfortable.” Rodriguez also explained how solely being able to use one restroom is a huge inconvenience because it takes at least five minutes “to trek all the way to the office, only for the nurse’s office to be locked half the time.” This extra time, while seemingly minuscule, can be especially troublesome in classes with time restrictions on their bathroom passes.

Maxelzedge Evans, a transgender freshman, had priorly tried using the main student bathrooms, but reported being “physically shoved out of the bathroom and called a girl.” Since then, he’s used the health office bathroom, but he finds it frustrating because Lloyd isn’t always around to unlock the door. Evans described how he also has about “10 non-gender conforming friends, and some refuse to even use the restrooms on campus.” He then elaborated on how ridiculous it was to have to wait seven hours just to use the bathroom at home. 

However, lack of accessibility isn’t the only thing making these restrooms unwelcoming. 

Rodriguez contributed an opinion on this topic as well, saying that “simply feeling safe” is an issue because they’ve “seen very offensive graffiti including swastikas and slurs written on the [bathroom] walls.” The graffiti “makes it seem like it’s a bathroom in the middle of nowhere like it’s abandoned,” Jocelyn Alvarez, a senior, also notes. So, many students prefer to not use the restrooms at all unless it’s an emergency. 

Nonetheless, even when students do want to use the school bathrooms it can be near impossible. Late last August, Alvarez came to me in shock to tell me an experience she had just come from. She had gone to use the girls’ restroom in the F-Hall building and there was a very long line, “like usual,” she adds. Alvarez explained that the line was long because “there was a lot of people in the bathroom, but they weren’t waiting in line. There were little groups of people just talking and there was a semi-large group in the big stall talking and eating lunch.” She then goes on to clarify that the group in the large stall was sitting on the ground like it was a “social area.” This is an obvious misuse of what few bathrooms the student body has access to and it’s especially frustrating to see when gender-non-specific students have far fewer facilities at their disposal. 

Whether it’s the vandalisms, the unnecessary crowds, the ever-present vaping, drugs, and alcohol, or the low number of bathrooms, it’s become increasingly apparent that the current school restroom system is inhospitable to most students on campus and especially to those who don’t relate to traditional gender groups. Staff and students alike have seemed very disheartened by the fact that this is a problem, especially when one of the school’s goals is to teach students how to be Universal Citizens. 

There’s a variety of obstacles students need to get through on a daily basis when it comes to using the school bathrooms, but something like “being accepted” isn’t something a Carrillo student should have to worry about. We should live up to the titles of Powerful Producers, Universal Citizens, Masterful Communicators, and Active Learners. The school needs to set a good example for the students. While it’s understandable that the school has many responsibilities, this is an issue of equality. It only seems right for it to be at the top of their priority list. 

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