Open the bathrooms, please

An open letter to GHS administration


Mr. Nicastro guards the bathrooms while Aidan Donald, Peter Zappa, Jack Costanzo and Noah Willett wait in line .

JENNA SMITH, Contributor

Dear Gloucester High School Administration, 

My name is Jenna Smith, a senior who attends Gloucester High School. I am part of various extracurriculars, including  sports, President of the Interact Club, as well as Vice President of the student executive board. I also am part of both honors and AP classes, which as you may assume, is a lot of work. As I have a heavy workload both in school and out, it is crucial that I am in my classes so I can get the best learning experience possible. 

Recently, an obstacle has stood in my way. At Gloucester High, a new bathroom policy has been implemented, where students have limited access to restrooms. Our school has eleven student bathrooms, five designated for females, five for males, and one single stall gender neutral bathroom.

During the day, only the first floor  bathroom is unlocked during passing times between classes. The science wing bathrooms are always locked, and the second and third floor bathrooms are only open if a teacher is there to unlock and supervise them. Teachers have been directed not to allow students to use the bathroom during the first and last five minutes of classes, as well as the first five, and the last five minutes of lunch.  This means that students can only access the restroom during class time. Typically, the first floor restroom is the one available, however sometimes it changes, which results in students having to go on a scavenger hunt to find an open restroom. Once we manage to find the bathroom that is open, we must wait in a line as only three students are allowed in the restroom at a time. 

These restrictions serve as a huge detriment to our time on learning, as students all over the school (first, second and third floors) often only have access to a single bathroom and must wait in order to use it. The current policy results in students being absent from class for up to fifteen minutes as they must travel between floors, and wait to use the restroom. These fifteen minutes in which a student is absent from class very negatively affect the amount in which a student learns as a teacher is not going to delay their lesson because a student must use the bathroom. 

As a result of these newly implemented restrictions, not only are kids having a negative effect on their time on learning, but students are also disregarding the rules that have previously been in place. Students have taken it upon themselves to use the staff restrooms as they are not allowed to utilize the restrooms that are ideally supposed to for us, the students. Before these new rules, the use of staff bathrooms by the students had never been an issue. This goes to show how more problems are being created rather than solving them. 

Not only is our current bathroom policy both dehumanizing as well as inconvenient for both students and staff, but some may also describe it as borderline illegal. Directly taken from Section 4B of Massachusetts Education Laws and Requirements,  the requirements of day schools include “one toilet and sink for every fourteen students in one or more well ventilated bathrooms or state why a lower ratio meets the needs of the school.” As only the single bathroom is available (for limited times) these requirements set by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are not technically met. 

As a student, I can confirm that students’ voices are not always heard. The students of Gloucester High School deserve to have the right to use the bathroom. I urge you to do anything possible to give us back our basic rights to use the restroom. In the interest of getting the best possible education, and the best use of our time on learning, it is crucial to return to the previous bathroom policies. Thank you. 

With best regards, 

Jenna Smith