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Posted at 6:13 PM ET, 12/ 3/2009

School bathrooms staying closed for now

By Valerie Strauss

Yesterday many of you discussed the closure of some bathrooms at Montgomery Blair High School during lunch because there are not enough security folks to patrol the facilities.

The post said that acts of vandalism that occurred during lunch had led to the policy, forcing kids to find other bathrooms or simply wait until access to the toilets was given again.

A story in the student newspaper on Monday reported that he principal, Darryl Williams, had told the president of the Student Government Association, Alex Bae, that he hoped the bathrooms could be opened soon.

But a message sent to parents today by Pete Lafen, co-president of the Parent Student Teachers Association, made it clear that there would be no immediate reopening of the bathrooms.

According to the email from Lafen, the closure occurred because of ongoing vandalism and a shortage of security due to illness and retirement.

“Blair security was aware that there was a problem in the upstairs bathrooms during lunch, including destructive vandalism and extensive graffiti. This problem was compounded when staffing dropped by two because of one illness and one retirement, and left them with defaced and non-functional bathrooms, and an inability to effectively monitor the upstairs bathrooms during lunch.

“This is not a situation that should continue for very long. Substitute security staff and new hires are both being sought to cover the staffing shortfall, and building services is working on restoring the appearance and functionality of the damaged, defaced bathrooms.

When you hear from your student about bathroom conditions, shortages of paper supplies, non-functioning sinks or toilets, or worse, please pass those reports immediately to Blair’s building services manager....”

Here’s one solution a reader sent:

Posted by: thornegp2626 | December 3

“Used to be when there were problems with bathrooms vandalism, the principal selected kids to show up on Saturdays to fix and clean them up. He didn’t always get the culprits, but soon all the kids realized they had a share in keeping the vandals down. The solution isn’t always throwing money, guards, locks at a problem!!!

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?

For more on Education, please see http://washingtonpost.com/education

By Valerie Strauss  | December 3, 2009; 6:13 PM ET
Categories:  Montgomery County Public Schools  | Tags:  Montgomery County Public Schools  
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Comments

“Used to be when there were problems with bathrooms vandalism, the principal selected kids to show up on Saturdays to fix and clean them up. He didn’t always get the culprits, but soon all the kids realized they had a share in keeping the vandals down. The solution isn’t always throwing money, guards, locks at a problem!!!


Agreed!! However, that is considered corporal punishment. Schools are not permitted to force kids to work under any circumstances. If the parents buy in then maybe, but most parents won't.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | December 3, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

School officials seem determined to punish the innocent rather than deal with the guilty. Perhaps the bathrooms should also be off-limits to those school officials.

Posted by: dcrussell | December 3, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

“Used to be when there were problems with bathrooms vandalism, the principal selected kids to show up on Saturdays to fix and clean them up. He didn’t always get the culprits, but soon all the kids realized they had a share in keeping the vandals down. The solution isn’t always throwing money, guards, locks at a problem!!!"

This tells me you are NOT working in education now. What happens if the principal selects 10 kids to show up on Saturday, pays people overtime to monitor the kids, and exactly 0 of them actually show up? Do you suspend them? Then what do you say to the angry parents who demand to know why their child was suspended because another student vandalized a bathroom? What do you say when the parents contact their school board members and your bosses want to know why you are suspending random students?

Posted by: someguy100 | December 4, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

All high schools have locked bathrooms, not just Blair. It is usually impossible to pin down who has vandalized the facilities and parents would not stand for their children cleaning bathrooms on "suspicion". No high school has the staff to monitor all bathrooms so many are just locked . This is ROUTINE!

Posted by: sopranovcm | December 4, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Locked Bathrooms? Graffiti? Vandalism? Are you kidding me? Go into any MCPS high school and this is ROUTINE.

Posted by: motherseton | December 4, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Forget the security guards! Read the comments posted yesterday by supposedly Montgomery Blair High School students. HELP! HIRE more English Teachers!

Posted by: motherseton | December 4, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

The "selecting random kids to clean up" idea sounds terrific but as others have said, it will never fly with today's parents, many of whom are already hyperdefensive about their offspring. It's a shame, because the idea of teaching kids that whether or not they actually committed the vandalism, *everyone* is invested in keeping the bathrooms clean is a great one. Maybe it could be a whole school project--a schoolwide cleanup effort every two months or something, with refreshments and music, something to make it fun and not seem punitive.

Vandals are such losers. I can't stand it when they try to make it seem like they're artists. No, artists buy their own canvases. You're not "tagging," you're defacing property that isn't yours, and it ALL looks the same, it's all that jagged black lettering that looks terrible.

Posted by: NYC123 | December 4, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Despite state, local, and board codes, regulations, and policies, that in effect prohibit students from repairing vandalized bathrooms, I wouldn't be surprised if some administrator in some high school has already forced a student or students to "fix" bathrooms. Silverchips go get them.

Posted by: motherseton | December 4, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Okay...where are these bathrooms...in Timbuktu? If adequate hall-monitoring is implemented then bathroom mishaps can be held to the medium. Usually, vandalism is prevalent when students are given access, time and opportunity. I am sensing the bathrooms that are being vandalized are in areas where the monitoring is non-existent. Just hypothetically... are the worst bathrooms the ones located near the principal's office?

I know at one school in the district...the high-school principal gave the vandals what they wanted in regards to graffiti, he had "blackboards" installed in areas where the acts of vandalism was at its worst. In some crazy and non-conformative way it is working.

Back to ignoring graffiti...I went into a classroom and I saw on a desk...a foul and disgusting message with a drawing. I immediately brought it to the teacher's attention and the response of the teacher was that she didn't know that it was there on the desk. I found it hard to believe as the desk was in front of her lecturn. I said why hasn't it been removed and her tersed remark was that it was the custodian job to do it?

Posted by: PowerandPride | December 4, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Some are vandals so all must be treated like vandals? This passes as good policy in treating students as responsible individuals?

Oh, I see public educators have no interest in having responsible individuals, the just want to punish not correct. As I stated yesterday, students don't learn to be responsible in locking them out. They learn to be tricky, go around the system and that the "system" is just a group of people unwilling to face the real problem--the vandal.

As to the answer it's not my job (i.e. the teacher who didn't think it up to them or their students to clean graffiti)...again just not willing to confront the real issue.

Vandalism isn't annoying, it's violence--true it's violence on inanimate objects but allowing it to "exist" without demonstrating taking action (and closing bathrooms is the wrong action), students will know that administrators and educators are fearful and will not confront the problems so why should they?

Posted by: mil1 | December 4, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Throw the bast@rds in jail along with their stinking parents. Make the breeders pay for the damages and don't let the filthy brats back into the school. Enough pandering to the BS that goes on every GD day in this decaying country.

Posted by: dlkimura | December 4, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

The restrooms are closed to students, but, shakedown attorneys are in them on their hands and knees sniffing (Yecch) for deep pockets.

Posted by: hurleyvision | December 4, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Here's a thought. . . how about the parents actually doing some parenting?? Who are the ones raising the vandals?

Posted by: noneyourbusiness | December 4, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Really? Who cares? It's an internal matter and there must be more important things to discuss than the potty in one school. Please, do better.

Posted by: jsjmmurray | December 4, 2009 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Question: When the school does have security guards in place and the guard catches someone vandalizing school property (or attacking a student or rifling a locker or whatever), what does the guard do? Take the offender to the principal's office for a lecture or report him to the police?
When my mother's school advised teachers to warn students not to leave items in their desks because there had been thefts, my mother made the announcement and added that if anything of hers got stolen she would call the police before she told the principal. The thefts continued--but not in her room. When the students were caught the principal had a long talk with them and their parents about why the boys felt it necessary to steal from their friends and I think they gave the kid detention.
(One of her students actually stated, "Why call the police? They can't arrest anyone under 18." She disabused him of that idea quickly.)

Posted by: opinionatedreader | December 5, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I have taught in all 12 High Schools in Anne Arundel county as well as some at the middle and elem. level. Answer to problem is simple:

1. Post a teacher (on Duty time) outside each unlocked restroom and have each student sign in and out using a pass from a teacher so you have a "real name".

If a problem occurs, go back to the sign in sheet and see who was in the room. Can also be done with having one student at a time go in. This has been at at least one or two AA High Schools.

2. Put security cameras opposite the entrances to each bathroom; make sure they are high up on the wall (8 to 10 feet) and trained exactly on the entrance. If a problem occurs, go over the tapes!

Thanks!

Posted by: jra11 | December 7, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

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