Teachers Everywhere Limiting Rest Time in Our Children’s Bathrooms

  • My kids tell me that some of their teachers limit bathroom breaks to 3 to 4 times a semester.
  • I thought this was an isolated thing, but I asked parents on Facebook, and it’s pretty common.
  • Experts say limiting bathroom breaks like this can be physically and psychologically dangerous.

“My science teacher limits bathroom breaks. You can only go three times a semester.”

This is what my son leads at the dinner table after his first day of school. I have two sons in seventh grade, the first year of middle school where we live. The previous week’s orientation had emphasized autonomy, agency, and taking greater responsibility for one’s actions and choices.

“One semester?” I wonder if he misunderstood.

She does not. My other son chimed in and said one of his teachers had the same rules but allowed four bathroom visits per semester versus three.

After dinner, I contacted my son’s school, Dobie Middle School, via email; in 10 minutes, I have the vice principal on the line. He informed me that the school allowed teachers to set this policy and invited me to contact administration again if the staff refusing my children to the bathroom became problematic. Insiders have contacted Dobie Middle School and the school principal to request further clarification on the bathroom policy and reasons for restricting student bathroom use. They did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hearing about this policy took me by surprise, and I began to understand whether this was something limited to my children’s schools or more broadly.

Other parents have also heard about the bathroom break policy from their children

I asked other parents on my public Facebook page if they found anything similar. I received over 120 responses and 18 private messages. Most of the responses came from parents whose children had told them about a similar policy, and most also expressed disapproval of limiting bathroom breaks.

“One of my child’s teachers set a similar policy — no more than three bathroom breaks per nine weeks,” says Leanne White Lewis, a parent from Pennsylvania. “But the policy in one of my children’s classrooms has an added incentive not to use the bathroom at all: Children who don’t leave class to use the bathroom all year are exempt from final exams.” Lewis went on to say he understood why the policy was implemented but also called it detrimental to children, both physically and mentally. “I can see both sides,” he said. “The government feels it’s the only solution to stop fighting and vandalism. They just don’t look to the other side. It’s very dangerous for children, there has to be action.”

“Where I live, high school students are given four bathroom tickets per semester and earn rewards, such as a day of watching movies and snacks, based on how much they don’t use,” Heather Holter, parent of two high school students in Minnesota, said. said. “Sixth through twelfth-grade lunch bathrooms are locked because the school is worried about vaping.”

Another parent in the thread mentions a system where students can get rewards or other perks for not using class time for restroom breaks. More than one parent said their children limited fluids during the school day to avoid using the bathroom. Many report instructing their children to ignore bathroom restriction policies if they absolutely have to go.

Several parents responded to the original Facebook thread about their experiences contacting teachers and school administration when staff refused their children’s bathroom breaks. Parents reported everything from obtaining a doctor’s note to placing 504 accommodations — plans to ensure children with disabilities or conditions that could prevent them from receiving the same quality education still meeting their needs — in places that allow free use of toilets during school to be able to to finish something after talking to the teacher.

What do health experts say about the potential dangers of limiting bathroom breaks?

Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk, a developmental psychologist, says she understands the problems and pressures schools face that influence their decisions about bathroom breaks, but warns educators against setting or following policies that harm children in the name of teaching children to stick to schedules. .

“Children’s needs stem from the biology of their bodies. They need to know that their feelings are heard and that adults can be trusted, and that they won’t suffer the humiliation of an accident because they were denied access to the bathroom. Knowing these things makes sense. emotional security,” Zeedyk said.

Tamyra Rogers, a primary care physician, says she typically sees bladder damage in people who frequently go for hours, or even whole days, without using the restroom, including teachers. “Over the years, the bladder begins to become unresponsive. The bladder is basically like a balloon. If you stretch it for too long, you lose the ability to contract.”

“Restricting the use of bathrooms in school goes against taking care of children’s physical and mental health,” says Leila D., a registered nurse from Texas with six years of school experience. He explains that not using the restroom when you must “can lead to medical problems, including weakened bladder muscles, constipation, urinary tract infections, and even more severe problems like megacolon.”

He also emphasized the importance of bodily autonomy. “How can children learn if we don’t let them trust their own bathroom urges? These rules not only control, they deny basic human needs.”

How to talk about enforced bathroom break boundaries with your kids

Since this deep dive into the bathroom started with something my kids mentioned at home, I’ve been talking to them about managing their time during the school day. I have also assured them that I will support them if they break the teacher’s bathroom rules, but the truth is that my children are rule followers; they are more likely to suffer in silence than to make waves.

If your child needs to use the restroom — because of their menstrual cycle, or for whatever reason — Zeedyk recommends encouraging them to listen to their bodies. “The bladder doesn’t follow the rules and the menstrual cycle doesn’t respect the class schedule. Like all humans, children have bodily needs that drive behavior,” Zeedyk says.

If parents are concerned that restricting bathroom breaks is a problem, Rogers recommends contacting a pediatrician. If necessary, they can provide written accommodation. The next step is to work with your school’s counseling service before talking to the principal.

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