Rise in bathroom vandalism, lack of security leave students fearful of using facilities – if they can find one

Bathroom Babysitting: Vice Principal Sera Baysinger guards the Q building bathrooms after school due to a shortage of campus supervisors. (Photo by Bailey Kirkeby)

Bathroom Babysitting: Vice Principal Sera Baysinger guards the Q building bathrooms after school due to a shortage of campus supervisors. (Photo by Bailey Kirkeby)

Gabriella Backus, Editor-In-Chief

Every Bear Creek student has noticed the hordes of students wasting time, smoking and gambling in the bathrooms, offset only by seemingly fruitless attempts at intervention or apprehension by administration and security. The bathrooms themselves are often trashed and vandalized with broken bits astray and litter abundant.Many students believe the bathrooms are unusable for their actual job.
In Dec. 2018, the Q girl’s bathrooms were shut down due to painting and vandalism. The Q bathrooms were closed again in Jan. 2019 for the same reason. So far in the 2018-2019 school year, bathroom-related incidents have led to one expulsion and around 10 suspensions, as well as countless citations and in-school consequences. As a result, campus supervisors and administrators have become “bathroom babysitters,” made to guard the bathrooms against interlopers, and the use of yellow restroom passes has been more strictly enforced.
Recently, only one bathroom has been kept open during school hours due to a lack of security or administration available to supervise all three student bathrooms simultaneously, leading students to complain about the spontaneous changes in availability. Legally, at least one bathroom must be available for student use, and there are no legal requirements for cleanliness or a student-to-bathroom ratio.
“It’s a very nasty situation,” senior Lucas Bingham said. “People gather in there in the tens. It’s a cesspool of filth in there, physically and metaphorically.”
Students’ criticism of the bathroom disrepair is formally referred to as “broken window” crime theory — signs of crime and civil disobedience, such as breaking parts in the bathroom and vaping, left unmanaged encourages further disobedience.
Principal Hillary Harrell says that keeping the bathrooms in order has always been an uphill battle, and the administration has been fighting against rampant crime — such as vaping, smoking, vandalism and gambling — for years. This year, however, Harrell notes a connection between an increase in punishment and an uptick in vandalism this school year.
“I’m noticing a trend: when students are held responsible for their behavior for fights and drugs, we have an increase in bathroom vandalism,” Harrell said. “My question is, is this connected? Are students’ friends taking out their angst about their friends being punished out on the bathrooms?”
Many students have criticized campus supervisors for their seemingly ingenuous attempts to prevent vandalism and crime, with some students saying the guards slack off and willingly ignore troubling problems in the bathrooms.
“Thanks to the limited amount of security on campus, the bathrooms consistently have problems with the defacement of school bathrooms, nicotine abuse and even illegal gambling,” senior Alex Luchetta said. “I believe it is time for the district to revamp Bear Creek’s security to combat these problems.”
Vice Principal Sera Baysinger says that the campus supervisors are not slacking off — in fact, they are only required to intervene when they hear a disruption.
“When [campus supervisors] are standing outside, they are ensuring students have permission to be there,” Baysinger said. “If they hear anything happening that doesn’t sound like typical restroom use noises, then they will assert themselves into the situation as needed.”
Harrell says that the supervisors’ job description does not require them to act as security guards.
“They’re not law enforcement or what some district have, like safety officers,” Harrell said. “They’re technically campus supervisors. Their job is to prevent [negative] behavior and intervene if they deem it safe.”
Harrell says that because Bear Creek is the largest campus in Lodi Unified School District (LUSD), covering a large campus with a large and highly diverse student population proves to be challenging.
Harrell encourages parents and students to attend meetings and speak about their concerns regarding the bathrooms. She believes an open dialogue will facilitate success.

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