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Dec. 3, 2009

Restroom closure causes local media coverage

by Colin Wiencek, Online Photo and Video Editor
This school year, all of the bathrooms on the second and third floors have been locked during 5A and 5B lunches. This issue has been on the forefront of many Blazers' minds since the change began at the beginning of second quarter.

When student and parent complaints and SGA negotiations failed to return student "privilege" to use restrooms, many thought the restrooms would remain locked for the rest of the school year. However, yesterday the media came to the aid of an increasingly large contingent of Blair students who have had enough of the locked bathrooms.

The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss wrote a blog on Wednesday that poked holes in the reasons for the closed restrooms. She pointed out that an inability to find a better solution does not necessarily mean that the current situation is just. "The school has a security shortage and couldn't figure out a better way to deal with it," she wrote.

Strauss points out an obvious flaw - the larger group is being punished for the actions of a few. "I'm going to take a wild guess that most of the students at Montgomery Blair don't vandalize the bathrooms. And I'm going to further suppose that there must be a better way of dealing with this security issue without locking the bathrooms," she wrote.

ABC 7 News ran a section on the 5:30 p.m. news on Wednesday that quoted many Blair students who were annoyed and outraged that the suppression of graffiti is more important to Blair staff than the needs of students' bladders. ABC 7 stated that the school administration and the county school system were contacted, but both declined to comment. WTOP ran an article on Tuesday, Dec. 2 on their web site that gave similar information.

It is important to note that contrary to ABC 7's story, this change in bathroom rules originated from security and building services staff - not the principal or the administration. ABC 7 also failed to credit Silver Chips Online staffers for information in this story.

But regardless of who started locking bathroom doors, the administration still has the responsibility to ensure that students' rights are protected, and that vandalism and security shortage issues are dealt with in a way that does not penalize the entire student body.

The yellow gate that stood between the SAC and the rest of Blair Boulevard last year was put at the foot of the main staircase on Tuesday. Alex Joseph
The yellow gate that stood between the SAC and the rest of Blair Boulevard last year was put at the foot of the main staircase on Tuesday.
The use of a bathroom is not a "privilege" that a school can take away. Students need to be able to relieve themselves or they will not be able to focus and learn properly. Because lunch time is split into two periods and classes are held during 5A and 5B, students and teachers alike have faced major hassles during class time, especially when students have to miss instruction to search the building for an open restroom. Furthermore, requiring about 1,250 students at lunch to share a single bathroom is unhygienic and unnecessary.

Luckily, the bathrooms won't remain closed for long, according to PTSA Co-President Pete Lafen. In an email to the Blair community, Lafen called the situation a "short term problem." "Substitute security staff and new hires are both being sought to cover the staffing shortfall," he wrote, "and building services is working on restoring the appearance and functionality of the damaged, defaced bathrooms.

This new bathroom regulation is only one of several new rules that, though well-intentioned, are depriving students of their rights. On Tuesday, building services staff brought back the yellow metal fence that once guarded the library and benches on Blair Boulevard during lunch. This time it was being used to stop students from walking up the main staircase. Not only does this fence prevent movement around the building, but it also poses a very serious hazard in case of a fire or other such emergency.

These new rules are not only disrespectful of students but also are potentially dangerous. It is time that the staff stops treating students like enemies and finds better ways to deal with administrative problems.

Read Silver Chips Online's initial coverage of the restroom closure here.



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  • senior on December 3, 2009 at 6:13 PM
    this is so true. for the past four years that i've been at blair, its always been students against the administration. and numerous times i've heard that its been teachers verses administration. yes, i know administrators are TRYING to do what's best for students. try being our friend vice principals. we're not all monsters and some of us come to school to genuinely learn. some of us may not, this is true, but every blazer has to urinate so learn some effective school management skills and stop punishing 3000 students for 100 students' actions
  • 11 on December 3, 2009 at 6:41 PM
    Amen. and it's awesome that photo staff gets to write articles, go colin!
  • Blair alum 08 on December 3, 2009 at 9:08 PM
    I think that whatever rules the administration comes up with, they also have to follow. If student bathrooms are locked, faculty bathrooms should also have restricted access. I don't understand why Blair administration is constantly fighting with the students and making up ridiculous rules that would never have any merit in the real world. Had a workplace decided that its employees do not get access to the bathrooms, lawsuits would have been filed.
  • Current senior on December 3, 2009 at 10:09 PM
    As awful as locked bathrooms are (Going from 310s hallway to SAC during pd.5 class? Awful. And consider that 5A and 5B classes are already shorter.), I really think that yellow barricade is worse. Besides obviously being an annoyance to anyone looking to head to a teacher at lunch (I do so every single day), it's really a serious fire hazard.

    At the moment, the only thing preventing people from trampling each other when the fire alarm goes off is well, assuming that it's a drill. What are the vastly outnumbered staff going to do when people scream "Fire!"?

    Unlikely, I know. But planning is done for extremes. We don't say, this building is 90% likely to stand up, after all.
  • junior on December 3, 2009 at 11:14 PM
    go head colin! hopefully this brings a change
  • Janis Sartucci (View Email) on December 4, 2009 at 11:38 AM
    Colin,

    On the Parents' Coalition blog we noted that the source of the bathroom closure information was a December 1st Silver Chips article. It is the courage of your student publication in speaking out that this issue is receiving media coverage.

    http://parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/2009/12/abc-news-7-principal-under-fire-for.html

    Schools are to be run from the top down, not the bottom up. That is why we have a Superintendent who is paid almost half a million dollars a year to run MCPS. The responsibility for the operation of our schools lies with him. The buck stops with him as they say. When Churchill High School's play was cancelled by the principal 3 weeks before opening night, Superintendent Jerry Weast dispatched an administrator to resolve the situation within 24 hours. The play was back on the next day.

    Superintendent Jerry Weast has the power to open all of the bathrooms at Blair right now. He is responsible for the continued closure of these facilities and the continued denial of this basic human right in a civilized society.

    The next Board of Education meeting is Tuesday, December 8th. I hope students and/or parents will show up at the Board meeting and make the Superintendent and Board of Education address this issue in public.
  • Joanna on December 4, 2009 at 7:18 PM
    At "Current Senior" -
    I AGREE. The bathroom lockage is stupid (although I recall running into locked bathrooms two years ago on the second floor during 5A), but the current bars in the hallway are much stupider. I'm a student at my school - do I not have the right to go seek out a teacher at lunch if I need help? Yeah, I get we need some limitations in our school or else, what, I don't know the school falls down or something. But you're going to further limit my own mobility in my own school? I come here to learn, not to be hassled around and told no, I can't go up and get math help because I'm missing a signed pass. Drat! You caught me! I wasn't really going to get math help, clearly I was going to go vandalize the 220's hallway but now thanks to your ingenious policies, I've been thwarted.

    These policies are just getting more and more frustrating. It's not any one thing, it's having them all piled up on top of each other. I assume these are all here to stop wandering students or destruction of school policy, but I wish there was some way we could address the problem without making everyone else feel like a convict.
  • reporter on December 5, 2009 at 3:29 PM
    Okay, everyone has to remember that the administration doesn't exactly have to do with this policy, and it is not exactly a policy. Mr. Williams is not the one who came up with this and it is mostly a security initiative, not a school policy.
    • erica on December 6, 2009 at 8:20 PM
      Well, that may be true, but Williams could change it in a heartbeat.
      • hmm on December 11, 2009 at 8:55 AM
        Exactly, i havent heard anything of him saying this sint right. Security panics and makes bad choices. this is a ridiculous policy that causes problems for many students. Im glad the media got this story, because it isnt right at all. Us using the bathrooms is not a privelege, its more of a need that noone can take away from a human being.
  • Locke on December 8, 2009 at 7:33 AM
    oh i thought they were locking the bathrooms because of drug deals taking place in them not vandalism.
  • current senior on December 8, 2009 at 9:33 AM
    This is ridiculous. Blair use to be one of the top schools in the county but it's gone downhil since mr.ganious left. All these pointless rules and regulations. We can't go see our techers for acedmic help and they expects us to have 3.0. I'm so glad this is my last year beacuse this is only goning to get worse, especially if someone dosen't speak out against all this b.s. policies. They're suppose to be "for our benfit" but honestly I don't see how this is helping anyone.It's so pointless.
  • senior on December 9, 2009 at 5:42 PM
    It appears that this issue/policy wasn't that big of a deal. I had to use the restoom on the third floor today and the restroom was open. Lunchtime is my time to unwind and socialize, and I don't visit with my teacher. If I need help, I am able to see my teacher. I wasn't here with the previous principal, but Mr. Williams is okay with me. I am glad this is done and over...too much drama and too many opinions. I am glad to be graduating because too many people make an issue about everything.
  • Junior on December 11, 2009 at 8:53 AM
    Ive always heard about the schools or administration violating students rights at other places, at other schools. But i never thought we would have a problem with that here at Blair. The Staff and administration panics, and goes with whatever decision they think might work.
    We have very little security here at blair but its getting better. There is no reason why we all have to be locked in a certain area dudring lunch or why we cant go to the bathroom on the floor our class is located.
  • jajaja on December 11, 2009 at 9:00 AM
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/montgomery-county-public-schoo/the-schools-bathrooms-are-stay.html

    The last snetence in the article says "Some of you thought the bathroom closure was a mistake; others thought it was exactly what the kids deserved. Have the new details made any of you change your minds?" My answer would have to be NO. Its stated right in our rights and responsibilities handbook that not everyone can be punished for somes actions. This is ridiculous.
  • alumnae3 on January 29, 2010 at 11:30 AM
    Wow. Locked bathrooms? Blocked library and benches? What is going on? This never happened when I was @ Blair.

    Isnt blocked the stairs & library entry/exit a fire hazard?
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