At an October meeting of the Council Rock School Board, members of the body vowed to ban a controversial bathroom procedure that some teachers in the district’s schools employ, according to several parents who spoke at the meeting.
The rule essentially tracks and places a limit on how many times a student can use the bathroom in a given marking period. In some cases, visits to the nurse’s office were also part of the bathroom limit.
It’s not clear if the issue is widespread or contained to just a few Council Rock teachers, but in any case, the procedure is wholly controversial if the parents who spoke at the meeting were any indication. One even called the policy ‘abusive and inhumane.’
Erica Walker, a mother of two children in Council Rock, strongly opposed the bathroom policy and asked for an immediate ban.
“A bathroom procedure was implemented in the sixth-grade class at Goodnoe Elementary School. I complained about this procedure five years ago in October of 2018 as my son was in sixth grade at Goodnoe at the time and had an IEP,” she said.
She added, “I expressed my extreme concern to his teachers and principal regarding the 25-bathroom and nurse visit limit that was implemented in September of that school year. As a result, unlimited bathroom access was added to his IEP through an amendment in October.”
Walker stated that her daughter is now a six grader at Goodnoe and she recently attended a ‘Back To School Night’ program for her child. She said there was no mention of the 25 bathroom and nurse visit procedure at the event.
“According to my daughter, the students were told that they were not to exceed 25 bathroom or nurse trips in one marking period. Several other sixth-grade students from different classes also confirmed that they were told the same by their teachers,” she said.
“They were told that if they went over the 25 limit, spaces from the following marking period would be taken. This kind of led me to conclude that we’ve reverted back to creating arbitrary policies that go against the districtwide PBIS model.”
Walker also explained that she wrote a letter to Council Rock Superintendent Dr. Andrew Sanko and School Board President Ed Salamon expressing disappointment and disagreement with the policy.
“This is a time when many girls have begun puberty and I feel strongly that this policy restricts a child’s ability to take care of their basic needs at their own discretion,” Walker said.
She added, “I imagine there are many more students at the school who continue to suffer anxiety and silence over these arbitrary policies. I urge the district and this board to consider implementing a written policy that does not allow staff to interfere with a students ability to regulate their own bodies.”
Roy Rakszawski, a resident of Northampton Township and former school board candidate, also expressed deep concern about the bathroom policy and asked for the board to take action on the issue.
“I am shocked and disgusted to hear that restrictive bathroom practices are still in place in this district. A little more than a year ago, I was questioning why a teacher at Council Rock South High School was not only limiting bathroom use for students, but also offering points to students who did not go to the bathroom for the entire marking period. Take a moment to let that sink in,” he said.
“This was the first for me seeing something like this after working in public education for over 30 years. In my complaint to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, I stated my concerns about this practice that limiting bathroom use and incentivizing not using the bathroom is inhumane and abusive.”
Rakszawski added that restricting bathroom usage can cause harmful physical and psychological effects such as urinary tract infections and bowel issues, increased anxiety, and the potential for public humiliation.
“Great grades should reflect proficiency in a subject area, not a student’s ability to hold it in,” he stated.
Rakszawski added, “The administration has been aware of these harmful bathroom practices for over a year and yet, nothing has been done to affect systemic change in this area. Stop saying students first always until you are ready to live up to that those words, they don’t mean anything when practices like this are allowed to continue.”
School Board Director Dr. Mike Thorwart completely agreed with the concerns of Walker and Rakszawski and expressed concern and anger as to why the procedure was continuing to happen in the district’s schools.
“Is there anybody on this board that has a problem with me directing (School Board Solicitor) Robert Cox and Dr. Sanko to write a policy that makes this not part of Council Rock ever again?”
“Perhaps during the education committee meeting next week, we can do a first read and vote it in the following board meeting because again, I said put a stake in it for a reason, it keeps coming back to life and I want to end it forever,” Thorwart said.
The board expressed no opposition to Thorwart’s motion and were in agreement that the bathroom policy needs to end. With that, a resolution to do away with the procedure once and for all will likely be on the agenda of the next school board directors meeting in November.