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The Student News Site of Elkhart High School

The PENNANT Online

The Student News Site of Elkhart High School

The PENNANT Online

Current bathroom break rules are shameful


Abigail Gratzol

Current bathroom rules at Memorial often force students to go long periods of time without relieving themselves.

Abigail Gratzol, Staff Writer

“Micturate”, which means urinate, is one of my favorite words. And it’s one of my favorite activities. It gives you a chance to have a quiet moment to yourself while you’re in the bathroom. And it relieves the discomfort of a full bladder. Which is a bonus. 

But, here at Memorial, I’ve been having trouble performing this necessary life function. And, no, it’s not because of the fact that students constantly trash the bathrooms, construction, or even sewers backing up. It’s because I can’t get out of the classroom long enough.

According to, Healthline, and every other article and website, a person pees an average of six to seven times a day. However, it is still considered normal for an individual to urinate as few as four or as many as ten times in the span of 24 hours. 

That means a person can have to pee every two and a half hours. Our regular school day is seven hours and 15 minutes, which means a student can have to pee three times in one school day or in three of the four classes (which is what I usually have to do). 

And, given our structured environment, it’s typical for a person to have to pee at about the same time every day, meaning there are classes you may have to take bathroom breaks from every day. 

While many of the teachers I’ve had in my four years at Memorial are gracious and allow students to relieve themselves when they ask (within reason), there are a lot of teachers who don’t let you go. Or, they let you go but penalize you for it. 

In some classes, students get a limited amount of bathroom breaks each semester (typically three). If they use all of their trips, they will not be allowed to go for the rest of the semester. Or, some teachers let students go over the limit but deduct points from their final grade in the class. Which means kids who have a schedule-sensitive bladder are screwed.

And when these teachers explain their rules, they tell you that you should be “dealing with your business” during passing periods. But here’s the thing. 

It can take me anywhere from three to five minutes to go to complete the whole bathroom process— from when I walk out of the classroom to when I return.

I collected data from 21 people on how long it takes them to complete a bathroom trip. The answers ranged anywhere from two to 10 minutes, but the average time was five minutes. (Note: it was two guys who reported taking 10 minutes.)

Passing period is only five minutes. Depending on where your classes are, you may be travelling from one side of the building to the other (through the overcrowded hallways). That can take most (if not all) of that time, leaving no time to “handle one’s business” and get to class on time. 

Even if your next class is one minute away, those who take four or more minutes won’t make it to class before the bell. 

A solution I came up with was to get to class, put my backpack at my seat, and ask the teacher if I could go. Most teachers are fine with that. When I do that, I can usually make it back in less than a minute after the bell rings. Then, I’m technically not late to class, they know where I am, and I don’t have to pee anymore. Most importantly: I’m not missing more than a minute of class time.

But some teachers even have a problem with that! Even though you got to class on time and asked if you could go, they mark you tardy! You just can’t win. 

Although I am one of the few people who enjoys block scheduling, the longer classes are exacerbating the issue. For me, the urge usually strikes in the middle of a class. So, if it’s a class with an anal teacher, I’ll have to wait the whole time. 

My main issue is on red days. There’s one class where my teacher does let me go to the bathroom, but sometimes I don’t go because they are teaching or we are doing an activity right up until the bell rings. (I’m not just going to leave during instruction and miss important information.) 

Then, my next class is with a teacher that doesn’t let me go— and they would mark me tardy if I went at the beginning of class. So after already holding it for an hour (because of the fact that I’m respectful) I have to wait even longer! 

Do you know how hard it is to concentrate on your teacher or your work when your brain just wants one thing from you? Not to mention, how insulting it is that someone is telling you— a literal adult— that you’re not allowed to go to the bathroom. 

The worst part isn’t the degradation. The worst part isn’t the temporary discomfort. The fact that my bladder has a schedule that doesn’t match the generosity of my teachers means that I have to hold it a lot: that’s the worst part. 

As a female-bodied person, I’m at more risk of developing urinary tract infections. And I find myself beginning to develop them more often than I can count. 

I’m lucky though— my mom is a nurse and I know a lot about health. So whenever I feel an infection starting, I am able to handle it naturally and quickly (by drinking a lot of water and going to the bathroom as soon as I need to). But not everyone’s mom is a nurse. Not everyone can tell that they are developing a problem soon enough to be able to fix it themselves. 

I know for a fact that having to hold it for extended periods of time throughout the school day on a consistent basis has given me health issues. 

It is a well-known fact that habitually holding your bladder is bad for you. Holding urine inside of you doesn’t allow bacteria to get flushed out of your body and increases your chances of getting urinary tract infections. It can even cause your muscles to atrophy, which leads to incontinence.

That basically means that overusing the muscles that keep you from peeing your pants will eventually lead to you uncontrollably peeing your pants in the future. 

And, since I have not once encountered Kegel exercises anywhere in our school’s curriculum, I guess we’re just all part of a conspiracy to fuel the adult-diaper industry. 

The “general rule”, according to Healthline, is to “empty your bladder whenever the urge strikes. Empty fully every time you go, and try not to rush the process.”

Many teachers’ rules completely go against this. 

I feel that it is important to say that I am not mad at anyone. I’m not mad at my teachers. I understand (although with difficulty) why they have these rules.

Some students don’t use sense when it comes to bathroom breaks. Some use it as an excuse to get out of class, rather than to actually pee. Some meet up with friends or sit in a stall on their phones. Some just aimlessly wander the halls with their bathroom pass in hand. In short: they abuse the privilege. 

And because they abuse it, bathroom breaks are taken away. 

But here’s the problem with that: bathroom breaks aren’t a privilege. Let me repeat: bathroom breaks are not a privilege. They are a necessity and more importantly a right. They can not and should not be taken away. 

This issue is even addressed in OSHA’s guidelines: “Because restroom access frequency can vary greatly from person to person, no federal standard for the permitted number of restroom breaks or a specific restroom usage schedule exists.”

Of course, they should be allowed within reason. 

According to OSHA, “employers [which, in this case, can be seen as teachers] may not impose unreasonable restrictions on restroom use, and employees [which, in this case, can be seen as students] should not take an excessive amount of time during bathroom breaks.” 

If a teacher is instructing, a student shouldn’t just get up and go. They should wait for a more appropriate time if they can, such as work time. And, when a student goes, they probably shouldn’t be out of class for more than five minutes unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as changing a pad (which, let me tell you, can take a minute).  

I feel like the bathroom-abuse problem has a simple answer: teachers keep track of their students. I realize that it can be difficult for some teachers to keep track of all the students and time, but there’s another simple solution: sign out sheets. 

If students knew that their movements would be kept track of, they might not be as quick to take daily 20 minute bathroom breaks. Sure, sign-out sheets are annoying, but I for one am willing to put up with that if it means not getting UTI’s and peeing myself. 

I’m not sure what else I can say or how to end this, so I’ll just sum up what I’ve said. People have to pee. That is no surprise. Many teachers don’t allow their students to go during class, but it can be impossible for students to go to the bathroom without missing class time. Putting a limit on the number of bathroom breaks a student can take per semester is unethical. Some teachers can be very unforgiving and it can create a lot of resentment as well as physical complications. The way things are now is unacceptable. Something has to change. 

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the GENESIS staff. Reach Abigail Gratzol at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Photo of Abigail Gratzol
Abigail Gratzol, Staff Writer

Hi, I’m Abby and this is my second year on GENESIS as a writer and photographer. I am also the communications specialist for Memorial Student Tech Services,...

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Current bathroom break rules are shameful