Behind closed stalls: A deep dive into school bathrooms

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Photo by Yuval Shachar

Junior Omer Bezherano washes her hands in the girl’s G-floor gym bathroom. The bathroom doors, at this bathroom and others, are open at any time, and anyone walking by can see into them.

You’re in the bathroom, the lights are dim, it’s dead quiet. ALL OF A SUDDEN, the door slams open and the room fills with gossipy chatter. You hear the footsteps thundering around you, and the violent sucking of a vape. Fruity scented smoke fills your stall, you hear the camera shutter clicking as the girls take quirky selfies. Cardi B TikTok sounds soon echo throughout the bathroom, and you sit petrified in the stall, afraid to emerge into the bathroom of judgment.

Vaping, smoking, hand washing, soap dispenser stealing, TikTok dancing, selfie taking, drawing on walls, vandalizing. All seemingly unrelated, but all have an underlying factor; they all take place in the Walter Johnson bathrooms.

School bathrooms are certainly not the most sterile, comfortable or overall nice places in the world. But they are supposed to be safe; an aspect that many students feel has been missing for a while. Drugs, goofing off, piercings and more all take place in the bathrooms, making the experience uncomfortable for students.

“I don’t know if [acquaintances] have done piercings, but I know they vape or smoke in the bathroom, I don’t just because I just don’t do drugs; that whole idea of doing that stuff in the bathroom just disgusts me,” junior Sarah Lawrence said.

As students walk into the bathrooms, they are often met with a mirage of images, writing and graffiti on the walls. The G-floor girls bathroom near the gym encompassed a wall of drawings and writing, which was added to almost daily before it was painted over a few weeks ago.

Sometimes the graffiti is crude and vulgar, other times it’s jokes and conversions between different individuals passing through the bathrooms.

Earlier in the year, a trend was circling the social media app TikTok where individuals had a dare for each month, a particular one being the vandalization of school bathrooms. Soap dispensers were stolen and urinals were vandalized with Kool Aid. While this particular incident occurred only once,students still see a general trend of bathroom vandalization paired with “goofing off” in the school bathrooms.

Sometimes, just the fact that there is a large group of students in the bathroom at once can be overwhelming for those who are simply trying to use the bathroom in peace.

“I was really uncomfortable when there were multiple people in the bathroom, I felt like I needed more privacy… I’ve been using the unisex bathrooms because there’s less people in it and a lot of the times it was closed,” freshman Oksana Borobiova said.

Another issue, though not directly related to what students do in the bathroom, is the issue of multiple out-of-order stalls, which have been out of order for quite some time. Additionally, the closure of bathroom entry doors have been prohibited. In other words, the doors are always swung wide open for any and every person to peek into the bathrooms.

Students understand that the doors closing is a safety hazard, since they prevent security from being able to see what is occuring in the restrooms; still, this doesn’t lessen the uneasy atmosphere the open door creates.

“I think if the doors could close, like if you would lock a door for example, it could lead to something unsafe… It feels like it’s right for there to be a door at all times, that’s how I grew up going to the bathroom, there was always a door, but then, it just feels very uncomfortable,” Borobiova said.

But bathroom oddities are not limited to just the uncomfortable. It is common for students to pierce their ears or dye their hair in the bathroom during the school day.

“I just got the needles and everything and I just did it [pierced her friend’s nose] and it was really cute… I pierced like four of my friends’ noses in the school bathrooms, either during lunch or before class or something,” an anonymous student said.

Inappropriate bathroom activity is so commonplace that when a poster recently circulated telling students not to masturbate in MCPS restrooms or risk afterschool detention, students were left wondering if it was a joke or not (it was).

The bathrooms at this school are far from perfect, with the main culprit being the student body. Unless a combined effort is made by students to make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable while using the bathroom, and a push for overall improvement is made, the school bathrooms will continue to deteriorate.

“I feel like the school doesn’t put as much thought and money to bathrooms, they put it to other stuff like SGA, and they don’t really care about the actual things that matter,” junior Madi Cisse said.

It is somewhat understandable that this is a matter of safety, although there are security guards of the corresponding gender assigned to specific bathrooms and everyone is allowed in the gender neutral bathroom. Yes, if doors are closed, security guards are unable to see if something, illegal or not, is occurring within the bathroom.

But this also means that any person passing by has a direct line of vision into the bathroom. Any person can witness someone in a vulnerable moment – even handwashing can be made uncomfortable if someone is staring at you through the bathroom door frame.

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