Can Schools Legally Lock Kids Out of the Bathrooms?

Have you ever heard of a school locking children out of the school bathrooms at certain times of the days? There certainly are a lot more precautions that schools have to take these days with students and education that they didn’t have to take in the past that can be difficult on both the students and the school’s administration.

Schools can legally lock bathroom doors for maintenance and at certain times of the day as long as there is no district policy or building code that they are contradicting. Since no big lawsuit has been brought to higher courts about locking bathroom doors, schools have been able to preside however they see fit in most cases.

It would be a pity to be a student who had to make a big fuss because a teacher wouldn’t permit them to use the bathroom only to get the permission too late, or maybe even show up to the bathroom with a hall pass, but have to wait for the bathroom to be unlocked. Let’s discuss the issue more.

Can Schools Ignore Students’ Rights To Use The Restroom?

You may have heard an embarrassing story from a friend who was asked to wait until the break to get to go to the restroom and wasn’t able to hold it in time for the bell. Unfortunately some teachers or schools have been known to abuse their power over minors and not allow them to use the restroom when they ask to be excused. I know our high school sometimes locked some of the bathrooms, which was very unfortunate when you’re late and you have to bolt to the other side of the building to use the unlocked bathrooms there.

Some teachers and staff can take extra liberties to prevent children from leaving the class by making up their own class policies if there aren’t official school bathroom policies stating the child’s right to the restroom. In my school we had a rule that students couldn’t leave 15 minutes before class ended or after it began unless the student used the word emergency. I remember my teacher having to prompt me without directly prompting me to say the right words so that he could give me the hall pass so that I could leave.

There have been a few accounts of teachers not permitting their students to relieve themselves to go to the restroom, but what about a school actually locking the bathroom doors? There have been accounts from students that their schools would lock the bathroom doors during lunches and once school was over to prevent students from doing things they shouldn’t do in them.

Is Locking Bathroom Doors Against The Law?

Going so far as to lock children out of restrooms can cause problems between parents and their childs’ schools, but what about the law? Isn’t there a requirement in the US to have a public bathroom available in every facility and there must be bathroom options for those with disabilities?

Each district controls the rules for the schools within their boundaries. Unfortunately it looks like it could be controlled on the district level, unless the issue reaches the attention of a higher court, but it would have to appeal to higher bathroom laws.

There are, however, regulations in place like the American Disability Act or ADA, that require businesses to accommodate for those with disabilities so that all individuals who wish can have equal access to necessary facilities. The ADA also applies to schools and other government buildings. The only places the ADA doesn’t really extend to are private facilities, homes, and churches.

The ADA requirements talk about bathroom toilets, tubs, showers, sinks and water fountains, how heavy doors can be, and how they can swing, but as long as those are installed, it doesn’t go into specifics of operation use such as when they need to be open for use.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the ADA will provide much help if a parent were to try to cite it as a reason why their child should be able to use the bathroom at all times, but there are additional district policies, and perhaps local building codes for schools on the county level that you could look into to back your position. Each state’s county or district site should have digital versions of all of their rules and regulations, or at least someone that you could call to point you in the right direction. (source)

What About The Health Risks of Forbidding Children From Using the Bathroom?

It sounds ridiculous when you think about it, right? Some parents and even doctors have to get involved in these situations.

There are serious health issues that follow holding in waste for too long. When waste or toxins are not expelled that the body is trying to expel, it can cause swelling, infection, constipation, or other long-term serious consequences like nerve damage. There seems to be a disconnect between schools and medical knowledge on the damaging effects of waiting too long to use the bathroom, especially for children. Children who have incontinence problems or have other underlying issues are even more at risk for sever issues in te future.

There are many ways that a person can increase their risks of getting bladder cancer, but we certainly wouldn’t want to add holding it in too long to the list of possible factors. (source)

Why Do Schools Forbid Students From Using The Bathroom?

If you’ve ever worked with a large group of students, you’ll know that they will typically do anything they can to misbehave, or get away from something. Schools that put strict rules on bathroom use usually do so because they have a hard time keeping children in class instead of meeting up with friends in the hallways or outside of class and never returning. Most school administrators know that students try to abuse their bathroom privileges and prevent students from causing trouble by regulating bathroom use, but student health has to be considered dually.

There is a lack of training and understanding of student health risks in administrative bodies and teachers employed by the schools to know how best to balance unruly student behavior and real need. They tend to take a full limitation of bathroom use on the student body, with the exceptions of the few students who have doctor’s notes for their preexisting conditions. (source)