A student at Shas Ti Kelly Road Secondary School has launched a petition to convince the school to restore access to washroom stalls that have been closed due to vandalism.
The $42 million school, which opened in September 2020, was built with gender-neutral washrooms which have a common area for the sinks and individual toilet stalls completely enclosed by ceiling-to-floor doors to ensure privacy.
But after several of the toilets were damaged purposely and the flush handle mechanisms were broken, Shas Ti Kelly Road administration decided to keep open only the toilet stalls that are visible from cameras mounted in exterior hallways.
In her petition posted earlier this week on change.org, STKR student Julia Elstad says the school has left only 10 washroom stalls open to serve the entire student population of about 700. She added that B.C. schools are required to provide at least one bathroom stall for every 20 students.
“As students we understand why the bathrooms were closed, to punish those with destructive habits, however, as the student body we believe this is not a good solution,” said Elstad, in her petition.
“Punishing the entire school, and taking away from our education by forcing us to go during class is not a good solution.”
Elstad says with so few toilet stalls available, students do not have enough time to wait for one to become available during the five-minute breaks between classes and the problem is especially a concern for female students who are menstruating. With only a few toilets being so heavily-used, they are often left in a messy condition and some are so dirty they become temporarily unusable.
“Punishing the entire school, and taking away from our education by forcing us to go during class is not a good solution. Having to wait in line for one stall in between classes… is not acceptable. Going to class with a full bladder is not only disruptive but distracting. The frustration from not being able to exhibit basic human needs takes away from the learning environment,” Elstad wrote.
As of Thursday afternoon, 426 people had signed the online petition.
The issue with toilet stall vandalism is a recent problem at the school and STKR Parent Advisory Council chair Laura Zapotichny said she became aware of it Wednesday night through a social media post. She has reached out to senior administration at the school and was told the toilet stall closures were made to try curb vandalism.
“The flushers are getting vandalized to the point they won’t flush and then they have to shut the washroom down,” said Zapotichny. “So it’s frustrating for both the students that aren’t doing this and for the admin that’s trying to make sure the washrooms are available and it’s just a matter of working through the situation that’s frustrating for everyone involved.”
She was told by one administrator that putting cameras in the washroom common area is not feasible because it contravenes privacy standards.
Zapotichny, who has a 13-year-old son attending the school, said the STKR PAC will address the situation at its next meeting, Jan. 18, at which School District 57 administration is expected to provide an update.
“We want to ensure that kids have a place to go to the bathroom and if they are maybe late that there’s some grace period given if they can’t get in and out within that five-minute period and make sure this is a safe environment for the kids to be at,” said Zapotichny.
“Senior admin is aware of this issue and the frustration of students, and we want to see them working together to resolve this. I don’t think cameras in bathrooms is ever going to be a solution or allowed, that’s a huge privacy issue. It’s just a matter of trying to impress upon the students that this is not OK behaviour.”
The Citizen is awaiting a request for an interview from SD 57 acting superintendent Cindy Heitman.