The real world stinks

Sitting in the school bathroom one day, I noticed a phone on the sink receiving three snapchat notifications. I suddenly realized ‘Wait, why can I see that much detail?’ And the answer is, I really should not be able to.

 School bathrooms need some work. Not only are they often closed off to the student body, but there is also very little privacy within the stalls. 

I cannot be the only student who feels like they are on display when in the restroom. After measuring the bathroom stalls, I found there is more than a foot of airspace below each stall door, perfectly big enough for someone to crawl under or slide a phone below. Now, would someone really do either of those things? I doubt it. But, the structure of the school bathrooms leave room for situations like this to happen.

Adding to the poor structure of stalls, the door only reaches 5 feet 8 inches, meaning anyone 6 feet and taller can look over the stall or is able to be seen. And in some cases, the gap where the door opens is wide enough for someone to accidentally glance into the stall. Anyone can see the privacy concerns this causes. 

In Kansas, there have been cases where peeping toms slide phones under dressing rooms or bathroom stalls. In response to these events, Kansas Senator Kellie Warren is sponsoring Senate Bill 385- a bill requiring invasions of privacy, like the ones mentioned above, to be considered sexual offense, and therefore having offenders face harsher punishments. 

In an attempt to relate SB385 to the state of our school bathrooms, I contacted Senator Warren multiple times, but she ignored our two scheduled interviews. 

So why are the bathrooms all built this way? It is almost as if the district is setting us up for potential privacy issues. District Director of Facilities and Operations, Jake Slobodnik, explained that the district follows the International Building Code in terms of structuring school bathrooms. Slobodnik named various logistical issues and safety concerns that go into building a bathroom, such as: The gap at the bottom or top of the stall allows for custodians to clean around the stalls, and can be used for emergency access, air regulation and helping to keep lines moving by seeing which stalls are in use. Additionally, the Americans With Disabilities Act requires a minimum of 12 inches of toe clearance for childrens’ stalls. This is to help people with wheelchairs navigate the stall and turn comfortably. 

Admittledy, I had to concede my point of privacy after learning the valid reasoning behind the stall measurements, but I have learned a greater lesson. 

When formulating my opinion, I went to extensive lengths to understand the purpose of our bathroom structure. I conversed with Principal Amy Pressly, the Blue Valley School District and studied the International Building Code. In addition, I reached out to Senator Warren for support in my argument, resulting in lost time. Furthermore, I studied and annotated SB385 which, considering my lack of legal background and jargon, was difficult to comprehend.

I am not saying this to complain about the work I went through to get answers. I say this to show how despite all the research and effort you may put into solving an issue, it may very well remain unsolved. 

This whole process has better helped me understand why some adults often complain by saying ‘the government doesn’t do anything’. I am disappointed that a local government official could not be bothered for an interview, and that the district has not voiced any interest in my concerns. I realize I am just a 16-year old student, who has no credibility or movement behind me, so why would they listen? 

Through this quest of mine for more privacy in the school bathrooms, a piece of my appreciation for our local district and government authorities was flushed away.