Mt. Diablo school district leaders' decision to close all but four bathrooms on a campus serving 1,400 high school students is shocking, disgusting and inhumane.
With one exception, school district trustees have said nothing when confronted with student and faculty complaints. It seems administrators are locked in some sort of childish standoff with students. It turns out this has been going on for a year. It's time the adults started behaving like grown-ups.
As reporter Theresa Harrington revealed on the front page of this paper Saturday, Mt. Diablo High School Principal Kate McClatchy decided to close all but two bathrooms -- one for boys, one for girls -- apparently because of concern about graffiti. After complaints, she opened a second set last week. As a result, there are five toilets available on campus for girls while the boys have four urinals and two toilets. For the entire campus! And the school can't even keep those clean and supplied with toilet paper, soap and paper towels.
Let's do the math. (Any fifth-grader should be able to.) State law requires that the school provide at least one toilet per 45 girls. Instead, it has roughly one per 140 girls. State law requires one urinal per 30 boys and one toilet per 100 boys. Instead it has roughly one urinal per 175 boys and one toilet per 350 boys.
The students have to somehow get to the two sets of facilities during the five-minute passing period between classes. If they're late for class as a result, they must get a tardy pass and pick up trash as punishment. This might sound like some sort of cruel joke, but it's real.
One would hope we wouldn't have to explain bodily functions to school trustees and administrators. Human beings, including our children, have basic human urges. Do school administrators think that students are going to be attentive in class if they're squirming because they have to relieve themselves? The situation has gotten so bad that some students have been urinating in stairwells and other places.
On top of that, the lack of soap and clean facilities is a breeding ground for germs. How often do these same school administrators put out warnings about cold and flu outbreaks and the importance of students washing their hands? Apparently, school leaders don't see the connection.
Amazingly, this situation has been raised by students at the last two school board meetings, yet it wasn't until the second meeting that one -- just one -- of the trustees, Gary Eberhart, finally questioned the bathroom closures. Where were Sherry Whitmarsh, Linda Mayo, Lynne Dennler and Cheryl Hansen?
Eberhart asked Superintendent Steven Lawrence to let him know how many bathrooms are open. Given the way we've seen this administration work in the past, that could mean a staff report will be coming in a few weeks.
If school trustees are not outraged by this, they have no business in public service. Let Lawrence know what you think: His phone number is 925-682-8000, ext. 4000. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
This should be fixed today, not tomorrow, not next week. Open the bathrooms now.