There have been a number of recent discussions in my household regarding the toilets in my son’s school. I know this isn’t as cool as talking about the school’s football team or as academically proper and intellectual as talking about math or science or history, but this has been a real issue recently. An issue that I would assume most households would not discuss in as much detail as we have.

Without getting into particulars, the discussions had to do with the fact that he simply and categorically will not use them. As much as I try to talk some sense into him, I get nowhere. He flat out said “I rather die than use the toilet at school!” So actually, I’m four paces behind even starting to get to nowhere: a feeling I assume many parents of teenagers sometimes have. If nothing else, this discussion ends up being one of those moments that allow me to exercise my already well developed parental patience muscle (you know, the exercise that starts by closing the mouth and breathing through your nose).

bathroom-stallMy son has been telling me that the kids at school are animals. They kick the door, try and figure out who you are, throw things in the stalls, peak at you over the stalls, and simply make using the toilets impossible. Furthermore, he explains to me that the toilets are gross, and that most of his friends don’t even use them either. I almost can’t believe him and feel he may be stretching the truth a bit.  So I once again tell him that it can’t be that bad, and that he just needs to find a time when no one is there to use the toilet. “Dad,” he says, exasperatingly, while looking at me in disbelief, “it’s like you never went to high school. Don’t you know how it is?”

Am I that disconnected? Has dad finally become too old to understand what teenagers live and feel? This comment struck such a chord that when I brought him to school at the end of lunch I decided to randomly walk into the first bathroom I could find. Here are the facts of what I saw (all of which I have photographic proof of on my iPhone, but for which I will spare you the sight):

  • There was one toilet paper dispenser on the wall outside the washroom (none in the stalls).
  • The toilet paper dispenser was empty.
  • There was no hand soap.
  • There were six stalls, three of which had random lengths of toilet paper hanging from them.
  • four of the six toilets were not flushed and filled with toilet paper and teenage-sized dumps.
  • There were puddles of pee on the floor.

I stood there, quietly breathing and very still. Thinking. So many thoughts ran through my mind, thoughts like:

  • I understand my son now! Gaawwwd, I would never use this bathroom!
  • Wow! Pulling toilet paper out in front of everyone in the halls. How embarrassing! What if you don’t have enough? Who thought up this cockamamie solution?
  • How many kids in this school don’t use the bathrooms? How many kids in this school are constipated?
  • There’s a serious social phenomena happening here with teens and bathrooms. Are all adults blind to this?
  • How does the administration of this school feel about their bathrooms? Why do they let this happen?
  • Science. Art. English. Really?! Let’s get back to the basics, like, letting thy neighbor crap in peace and flushing the bowl for the next guy. What about manners and learning about how to use bathrooms properly? Self-respect? And respecting others? And living in a community? And leaving our environment in better shape than we found it?
  • How successful is our educational system when hoards of kids are squeaking by with 60’s, holding toilets hostage by ridicule and fear, acting worse than chimps, not flushing the toilet and peeing on the floor?

I’m outraged at this. But at the same time I am almost not that surprised. And that’s the most worrisome part. Is this normal? And are all high school bathrooms like this? And if they are, what are we going to do about this? I am convinced that anyone who has a son or daughter (not sure if girl’s bathrooms are the same shape) in a school right now is asking themselves if their child is confronted with this gross and demeaning reality.

I’ve made my complaint to the school, and am waiting for a response.

I want to know how your kids perceive school bathrooms.

I want to know if this phenomena shapes the views of all our children.

—Alex Vinetti