Written by Ella Bohmann Farrell and Emily Buck
Cover animation by Tess Buckley
This year, bathrooms across campus have been closed very frequently, and M-A’s student body is pissed. Every day during the week of October 25th-29th, M-A Chronicle journalists checked every bathroom open to students and found that 47.6% of bathrooms were locked during checked times. We checked each bathroom before and after school, during brunch, lunch, and every class and passing period, for a total of 14 checks per bathroom every regular day and nine checks per bathroom on block days. The results speak for themselves.
According to Assistant Vice Principal Stephen Emmi, bathrooms are “locked when the bell ending lunch and brunch rings until five minutes into the period” as a result of “a huge increase in vandalism in the bathrooms,” and “kids grouping together in the bathrooms to avoid going to class.” The vandalism concern could be in reference to a recent TikTok trend called Devious Licks, where students steal school property as a joke and post videos about it. Nevertheless, our data proves that the bathrooms are locked far more than just after brunch and lunch, and are sometimes locked and not reopened for the rest of the day.
Most of M-A’s campus was built in 1951, so our bathrooms are built to adhere to a specific “Prior to 1994 Uniform Building Code,” which requires one toilet per 100 men and one toilet per 45 women. The most recent California Plumbing Code that applies to buildings built after 1994 states that there needs to be more toilets available per person: one per 50 men and one per 30 women. However, according to the dated “Prior to 1994 Building Code,” and given our student population of about 1,190 girls and 1,250 boys, the school is still required to have 27 toilets for women and 13 toilets for men open at all times.
Our data shows that, on average, only 18 out of the 39 toilets for women are consistently open, which is substantially under the legal requirement. Conversely, the average number of toilets available to men consistently exceeds the requirement at 19 out of 36 toilets open throughout the day. This could be due to the fact that men have both toilets and urinals, and both count as ‘one toilet’ when counting.
Gender-neutral restrooms do not have listed legal requirements; however, our gender-neutral restroom, which was the result of an eight year push vigorously fought for by the Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA), has only three toilets, and is seemingly either open the entire day or not at all. The chart indicates that for two days, Tuesday and Thursday, the bathroom was essentially closed all day.
M-A’s eleven bathrooms are scattered all across campus, meaning certain restrooms are less accessible than others. The E Wing was open 99% of the times we checked, but it is a long walk away from the places where the most students gather during brunch, lunch, and passing periods: the Green and the G Wing. Bathrooms closer to the Green, like Pride Hall, are open 68% of the times we checked, and the G Wing upstairs bathroom is open 46% of the time, with the G Wing downstairs open 75% of the time.
Senior Rishi Siddarth said, “I usually go to the K Wing first to see if it is open, since it has a ton of stalls. But when it’s closed I need to waste more class time and go to the G wing or Pride Hall. It’s really annoying.”
Since we only have one gender-neutral bathroom, it is important that it is constantly available as it’s inaccessibility isolates the students that typically use it. In a previous article regarding concerns around M-A’s Gender Neutral Bathroom, student Austen Dollente was “scared to use the gender-neutral bathroom” initially because of the “stigma around it or because of the remarks that we’ve heard or the aggression towards the bathrooms.” Users of the gender neutral bathroom already feel secluded, and the added unavailability doesn’t even allow the bathroom to be an option. On Thursday the 28th, the gender-neutral bathroom was closed for the entire day, forcing people that use the gender-neutral bathroom to use another toilet that they might be uncomfortable with.
Lots of M-A students have expressed frustration with the closures, and have overwhelmingly said that bathrooms are often locked. Sophomore Kate Budinger explained, “when I have tried to go, they have been locked more times than I can count.”
Sophomore Janiya Moss said that the bathrooms are closed “so many times. It’s terrible—I can’t pee.”
Emmi acknowledged that “not all the bathrooms are necessarily getting reopened after the initial locking during brunch and lunch.” He explained, “Bathrooms should be open after lunch and then open for the rest of the day.” However, in our data, bathrooms were only open after lunch about 53% of the time throughout the entire week, giving students a 50/50 chance of bathroom accessibility after lunch.
Vice-Principal Nick Muys said that the bathrooms shouldn’t be closed “for more than fifteen minutes during the day.” However, on average, the bathrooms were closed for approximately 175 minutes a day.
Campus aides and other staff are tasked with opening and closing the bathrooms at allocated times throughout the day. Campus aide Ms. Dixon said, “The instructions we were given from administration were that it’s mainly brunch, lunch, and flex when they want it locked for up to 10 minutes after the final bell rings.” These instructions can be understandably confusing, as there is no set routine to who locks each individual bathroom, just a goal of having them all locked during “intended times.”
Campus aides are also managing all types of issues around M-A’s campus, so bathroom monitoring may not always be a top priority. Steven Guerra explained, “there are a million reasons why they stay closed.”
However, keeping bathrooms open is important for avoiding health and hygiene issues and reducing lost class time. “Holding it in” can actually have negative long term health implications, and wandering around campus to find an open bathroom turns “bathroom breaks” into fifteen-minute excursions which causes students to miss valuable class time. Junior Lily Cobos said, “Sometimes I have to walk all the way across campus just to find an open bathroom.”
Freshman Amanda Jennings said, “I don’t like how the bathrooms aren’t open during class,” as she finds the entire closing and opening “very inconvenient.”
In particular, people that get periods require bathroom access for menstruation hygiene in addition to regular use. Junior Calista Schmidt said, “I think it is especially unfair to girls who need to use the bathroom a lot more for things like hygiene if it is that time of the month.”
Both AVPs interviewed sympathize with students, as Emmi said, “I apologize, but this is our attempt to try to recalibrate and monitor our bathrooms and make sure they are not being damaged or abused.”
Muys explained, “Our aim is maximum bathroom access. We will work to address it because it is important. I don’t want this to be an issue of contention for our students who are already having so many difficult days getting readjusted to in-person school and the stresses of academic life.”
Regardless, students are legally entitled to a certain number of toilets open for their use, which isn’t being met on a regular basis. Our administration is in the process of recalibrating the operation as Muys said that, “there were definitely some holes, and we are in need of a more systematic approach to opening and closing.” He also noted that the administration is “very grateful for this research, and I will share it with the team and work towards implementing a better system.”