We just need to pee: Shorecrest students share bathroom grievances

We just need to pee: Shorecrest students share bathroom grievances

A lot of changes have come to Shorecrest this year, but one thing never changes: the bathrooms are still a mess. No matter how much the administration tries to solve these problems, it appears there’s no magic solution. Laying out the problems we’ve observed and a few ideas for solutions, however, seems like a good start.

Bathrooms temporarily closed “for your safety”
Bathrooms temporarily closed “for your safety”

See also: Please Stop Smoking in the Bathrooms, Tristan Scott, May 2023

Students may have noticed a new phenomenon this year of some Shorecrest bathrooms being blocked off for several days at a time. The signs simply read, “For your safety, bathroom closed due to misuse.”

So what’s the deal?

“When a bathroom is closed, it’s primarily because there was misuse or vandalism,” Principal Towe says. “It truly is just about student safety, and also making certain that we’re providing a clean and safe environment for students to use.”

If staff members notice that a bathroom smells like someone might have been vaping there, “we would want to close that bathroom until the air has a chance to circulate, so that we can be certain that no students go into a space that is unsafe,” he says. Additionally, it’s important for them to clean up vandalism and repair damage so that no students see graffiti that could potentially be hurtful, or could otherwise make them feel like they’re in an unsafe environment.

He notes that not only is using vape pens harmful to young people, whose bodies are still growing, students might also not know where their vape cartridge comes from, posing a risk to their safety. With the use of fentanyl on the rise in our community, he says, this is particularly concerning. “And so we’re cautious of what’s happening in the restrooms when we have the smell because we don’t know what it is,” he says.

Students have mixed reactions to the bathrooms being closed. One senior, who asked to be anonymous, says, “I understand that they’re trying to stop vaping—because it’s something that’s not studied, so we don’t know the long-term health effects—but it’s really irritating as an outsider because I need to pee.”

“It’s just stupid,” says Piper co-editor-in-chief Harlan Liu. When asked to elaborate, they clarified that it’s not the closing of the bathrooms that’s stupid, but the fact that students continue to vandalize and vape in the bathrooms.

No one we talked to had any brilliant ideas for how the administration could better juggle keeping students safe and allowing students to access bathrooms, but it is clear that one obvious solution would be for students to be more considerate of their peers and choose not to vandalize or smoke in bathrooms.

Although it may feel uncomfortable, reporting to a teacher if you see someone being unsafe in the bathroom is another way students can help. “We need students to help us to make certain that everybody’s looking out for each other,” Principal Towe says. “If they see a student smoking in the bathroom, it’s important that they let an adult know so we can make certain that that student is safe.”

While bathrooms being outright closed is one of the most visible problems, Shorecrest students who are just trying to use the bathroom face several other issues.

Hogging the accessible stalls

Have you ever gone to use the bathroom, found that there was a long line, and then realized that the line would be moving faster if there wasn’t a clump of people hanging out in the accessible stall at the end, not even using the toilet?

This is more rude than anything else. It’s rude to the people who need to pee before class, and it’s rude to the people who might need to use the larger stall for its intended purpose (accessibility).

Go chat in the halls, not in the bathroom.

Gender neutral bathrooms: theyre still an issue
Gender neutral bathrooms: they’re still an issue

See also: Gender Neutral Bathrooms at Shorecrest, Meredith Young, May 2022

Bathrooms can be a stressful and sometimes downright hostile environment for trans and non-binary students. While our school does offer two single-person, gender-neutral restrooms, there are a number of issues that I and many other trans students have noticed.

There are only two gender neutral bathrooms at Shorecrest: one in the nurse’s office on the first floor, and one on the north end of the second floor, near the green staircase. These locations are quite inconvenient for most classes. If I need to use the bathroom in, say, my English class, I would have to go all the way from the theater to the main building, up a flight of stairs, all the way to the other end of the building, and back again. This could take up to ten minutes, causing me to miss instruction time and inconveniencing other students that need to use the bathroom.

Last year, I needed a bathroom pass in order to change for my second semester PE class. As it was already partway through the year, the office didn’t have any to give me. It took me nearly a month of asking the office for a pass and being told to come back the next day over and over again before I finally got a pass. I understand that it can be hard to estimate the number of passes that will be needed for the year, but my experience is not unique.

Additionally, I’ve experienced issues with passes malfunctioning. This is a less common issue, but something that has been frustrating nonetheless. There have been multiple instances where I have seen someone exit the bathroom, scanned my pass, and have the bathroom remain locked as if someone is using it. The issue always resolves itself, usually by the next day, but it can still be very frustrating to be locked out of the bathroom when you need to go.

This isn’t an easy issue to solve. Many ideas I’ve had to solve one issue would just create another. If, for example, we didn’t require passes anymore, I suspect there would be an uptick in people hogging the bathroom when they don’t really need it. I do think the office needs to do a better job of making sure they have passes available for students that want them. Additionally, I don’t understand why the staff bathrooms on the third and first floors aren’t also gender neutral bathrooms. It seems like it would be reasonable to put a pass reader on the doors and allow students to use them, creating more options for students who need them. Shorecrest puts significant emphasis on equity and support for students, and I would love to see that reflected in their actions.

Locker rooms: no gender neutral option there

See also: Shorecrest and the Gender Binary, Harlan Liu, May 2022

Let’s face it: using a changing room as a trans person can be a terrifying experience. As a trans man, using the women’s changing room runs the risk of making myself or other people uncomfortable, but in the men’s I risk being harassed or judged for my perceived otherness. Additionally, most PE teachers do not allow you to leave backpacks in the gym, meaning I have no place to leave my things where they are safe from theft. Shorecrest requires 3 semesters of PE classes, so what exactly are my options?

Our nurse, Mrs. Urrutia, graciously allows students to leave backpacks in her office and change clothes in her bathroom. This is the best (and basically only) option that I’ve found. However, there are some significant issues with this.

Understandably, teachers do not want students wandering in the halls during class. However, this means that (in my experience), teachers require that you stay in the gym or changing room until the bell rings. This is a problem when your bag, change of clothes, and safe place to change are in an entirely different building. On full days, this leaves me with no option other than to run to the Nurse’s office as soon as the bell rings, have about 5 minutes to change clothes, then run to homeroom and hope I make it. This is stressful and frustrating, especially considering that my peers using the locker room typically get the last 5-10 minutes of class to change, leaving them ready to go by the time the bell rings. And that’s how it goes on the smoothest days;

There are lots of unexpected complications that I’ve run into using this solution. On many occasions, I’ve arrived after class to get my bag and change, only to find that Mrs Urrutia is on call somewhere and her office has been locked with my bag still inside. I then must scramble to find another staff member with a key, leaving me with even less time to change and get to class. Other times, the bathroom will be occupied by another student who needs to use it. The only other gender neutral bathroom, as discussed above, is on the second floor (and in a very inconvenient location compared to where my homeroom is).

This isn’t an easily resolvable issue. We can’t just add a gender neutral changing area to the gym without construction, which our district isn’t really in the position to do. However, I do have some ideas for how things could be made easier for students who are uncomfortable using the gendered changing rooms for whatever reason. Firstly, allowing students who use the nurse’s office to leave when the class is released to the changing rooms would be a massive help. I understand the concerns about students wandering the halls or being disruptive, but the vast majority of us just want to change clothes and get to class. Destination passes being given could also help keep people under control. In general, I would appreciate it if teachers were more conscious of their students’ needs and were willing to work with us to make gym classes a more safe and positive experience for everyone.


Having a safe and accessible place to relieve ourselves is a basic human right, and it’s troubling that there are so many factors making it difficult and frustrating for students to go to the bathroom during the school day. These problems can’t be fixed just by students or just by the administration; we need to work together.

Students can help by being more considerate of their classmates: not smoking in the bathrooms, not vandalizing the bathrooms, not hogging the accessible stalls, and being quick when you’re out with a destination pass. You may not realize that your actions are directly hurting other students who just need to pee.

The administration can help by working actively with students to avoid having to close bathrooms, provide more access to gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms, and try to enforce our existing hall and bathroom policies.

At their core, all of the problems described here come down to safety, an issue that we should all be working together to solve.

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