Are campus bathrooms in the San Dieguito Union School District unsafe?
At the March 15 meeting, the board looked into exactly this issue as they discussed how to handle school toilets, which some students consider unsafe due to vaping, fighting or other misconduct. The board voted 3-2 to send the question back to each individual school’s website for their opinion on whether this is a problem and possible ways to address it. Trustees Michael Allman and Fan Anderson were opposed, believing they already knew it was a problem and that they had a solution.
Allman was the one to put the issue on the agenda, having heard numerous complaints over the past year about “rampant” vaping and how many students don’t feel safe going to the bathroom at school. He said he heard stories of students not eating or drinking during school hours because they were afraid to use the restroom, or going to the Del Mar Highlands Center during recess to use their facilities instead. While matters of student discipline are confidential, Allman said many of the recent student exclusions were related to violence in the school’s toilets.
“I think this is completely unacceptable,” Allman said. “We need a safe place for the kids to use the toilets.”
Allman’s suggestion was for volunteer parents to supervise at least two bathrooms on each campus for a limited period of time, such as during lunch break. That night, he sought board approval for his proposal but was unable to reach consensus: “I’m frankly shocked that we’re not doing anything to keep our bathrooms safe,” he said.
During the council discussion, the student council representatives shared that they did not think it was as big a problem as it was presented and that they did not support the use of volunteer parents.
“I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration,” said Ruthie Bell, student council representative for San Dieguito Academy. She said that there are always several clean and open toilets in the school, and that this issue was not brought up in her conversations with other students.
“The only public comments we’ve ever received on this issue have come from parents or adults who aren’t even parents in the county citing social media,” Ruthie said. “We are taught not just to believe everything we read on the Internet.”
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A spokesperson for Torrey Pines student Julia Liu said she had never witnessed any situations in the bathroom, but she understands that these things happen, and not just in the bathroom – they often happen outside of school as well. She urged the board to focus on providing support to students who need help and educational resources so students can learn about the consequences of their actions.
In her four years at Canyon Crest Academy, student council representative Lexie Worms said she never saw problems in the bathrooms, but she did run into some problems during her time at Earl Warren High School.
“Toilets are a concern, but I think it’s more of a symptom of a general problem, which is why students feel compelled to take drugs at 10am,” Lexie said. “What are we doing to solve the problems students have…instead of just making sure the toilets are safe?”
Sasha Bell from La Costa Canyon shared that she personally never felt safe, but “having an unprepared casual parent with access to the bathroom would be extremely inconvenient.”
Trustee Anderson said she appreciates the girls’ point of view, but the questions she hears mostly come from male students. She said that the toilets in the area are not a safe place when children fight, vape and do drugs, and students have to wait until they get home to use the toilet. She said parent volunteering was a new solution that they could at least try.
In 2021, the council approved the pilot installation of vape censors in the toilets of two schools to help solve the same problem. Trustee Katrina Young voted against the censors, and many student representatives at the time also opposed, again in favor of supporting students and education, getting to the bottom of the issue.
President Rigma Wiskantha’s response was to take the matter to staff and school sites for their input: “The best approach is at the site level.” Trustee Jane Lea Smith agreed that each institution could look at existing problem areas, campus supervision, substance abuse education, and suggest some solutions that the council could direct resources towards. Smith said volunteer parents could still be an option coming out of this work.
Allman and Anderson did not support this proposal. Allman said the problem with contacting the site’s staff is that they’ve done this before and nothing happened.
“If we needed safe bathrooms, we would take action tonight instead of kicking a can down the road. One more time,” Allman said.