Teacher’s Corner: Bathroom Breaks

Teacher’s Corner will be an irregular feature containing my mumbling and ranting on issues of education  and people.

The theme of today’s post is probably going to be a reoccurring one: Why are the USA determined to be so horrible? On Twitter somebody posted the following note which apparently was handed to their child:

Note about bathroom use

Mrs. White’s 8th Grade Admin/Bathroom/Water/Nurse Pass

I will only have two passes for the ENTIRE month during Focus, BOTH Math Blocks, Community, Lunch, Restoration, etc.

I understand that once the number is circled, it indicates how many times I have went (sic) thus far for the entire month.

I understand that I need Mrs. White’s signature for EVERY TIME I leave to go to the Bathroom, Nurse, speak with Admin or to get water.

I understand that once I have used my 2 passes for the ENTIRE month, I will not be able to go to the restroom, get water, or go the nurse (sic).

I understand that only special accommodations will be made if my Doctor writes a note regarding a medical condition.

I understand that failure to comply with the Bathroom/Water/Nurse Pass will result in an Automatic Detention and a zero on whatever assignment I decide to walk out on.

I understand that Ms. White is petty and although we both have options, I can be denied going to the bathroom/water/nurse during the lesson.


I mean, WTF?

As a teacher, I know that “the potty goer” is a nuisance. It is disruptive in class when every other minute somebody asks to leave, leaves, comes back, etc. That’s why we encourage our kids to use the breaks, which are, btw. included in this bathroom pass. We have two big breaks of 20 minutes between 2nd and 3rd, and 4th and 5th lesson, and short five minutes breaks between the other lessons. And still we don’t deny our kids bathroom breaks. At the most, they get some extra work (I have a whole book of extra work that “fits the crime” where the kids have to reflect on their behaviour). Some classes have a system where you automatically move to “yellow” if you go during the lesson. In most cases we use common sense. The kid who asks to go five minutes after the end of their break needs to learn that yes, going to the bathroom is part of their “during the break” activities, same as eating*. The kid who asks to go after 30 minutes probably couldn’t have known during the last break.


*You wouldn’t believe the amount of kids who return to the lesson and then take out their breakfast. Many of them react angrily when you tell them to put it away and feel treated unfairly because they are hungry.


Although the school issued a retraction (see below), this isn’t the first time an American school is in the news for “strict”* bathroom policies.

On Twitter, while many people shared their stories about peeing/vomiting/etc. in class due to similar practises, many people replied that they didn’t see the problem and that it would teach kids discipline. It’s a dangerous gateway to the authoritarianism we currently see.

*strict as in dehumanising, cruel and completely fucked up.


Retraction letter from school

Retraction letter from school


  1. says


    When I was getting my education, a lesson “hour” took 45 minutes and there were 5 minutes breaks inbetween for going to the bathroom. And after first two hours a 15 minute break for snack.

    It happened rarely that a kid had to ask during a lesson, and it was always permitted, even though some verbal scolding might be involved (I do not remember that much).

    A note like this? Never heard of it.

  2. rq says

    Wow. Just… wow. I could understand talking to consistent opportunistic peeers, but denying access to the nurse? And water?
    Here, at least, each classroom has a sink and children are asked to bring their own water bottle, which is always present. And breaks are sufficiently well-organized for everyone to avail themselves of the bathroom or snacks, but I have also never heard of anyone being denied during lessons -- perhaps they are asked to wait ten minutes to finish a test or short assignment, but never denied outright.

  3. DonDueed says

    “… how many times I have went [this month].”

    If Ms. White is an English teacher, this school has even more problems than her approach to discipline.

  4. jazzlet says

    Ms White could do with having a urine infection to drive home to her how important it is to be able to access as much water as you need and to piss when you need to (within reason).

  5. says

    Yeah, our school year just started at the beginning of August and we often encouraged our kids to have some water, yes, please refill your bottle.
    And now the first cold is making rounds and kids drink a lot to soothe their throats and, yeah, need bathroom breaks more frequently.

  6. voyager says

    Ridiculous! What about menstruation? Is the expectation that if your period starts or you’re on overflow that you’re supposed to bleed until the end of class?

  7. khms says

    I just want to mention that the whole concept of a “pass” is one that I never heard about during my whole school time. I only came across it once I read more about the US.
    It’s been at least a decade by now, but I’m still boggled.
    I sometimes think that the US are still on the authoritarian trip that was given a mortal wound here during the 60s. (For a really obvious example, see the pledge.)

  8. Onamission5 says

    Meanwhile, my kids’ former middle school had an open use policy on restrooms and water, because they didn’t want children pissing their pants or passing out from dehydration in class. If a student used the restroom at an inopportune time the teacher might have a word with them later, and if they made repeated trips their motivation would be called into question, but they were not by any means limited to two trips per month, or even per week, or per day. There wasn’t a full time staffed nurse so that was trickier; the nurse was only in the school twice a week for half a day at a time. A student who complained about being ill was either sent to the office if the nurse was on staff or allowed to call a guardian.

    My middle school, you know from back in the good ole days when those kids had respect blah blah blah, allowed teachers to set their own policies but most of them had a one trip per student per class period rule and all you had to do was either grab the “bathroom pass” (usually a light weight but unwieldy object like a paddle shaped piece of wood) of which there were two, or ask the teacher to hand the pass to you. Requests were not approved during lectures, usually, but during work time it was fine.

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