BHS bathrooms require a cultural shift

As a student in the Jan. 31 bulletin said, “I go to Berkeley High (School). Of course, there’s no paper towels or soap in the bathroom.” At BHS, bathrooms are infamous for being messy and missing necessary components. Because of this, many students will go so far as to avoid certain bathrooms due to their state. “I don’t fully avoid going to the bathrooms, but I do avoid certain ones,” said BHS freshman Sofia Dodge. But how can BHS fix these unhygienic situations? 

No matter how nice the bathroom amenities are, they can still be ruined by vandalism and trash. To solve BHS’s bathroom problem, the school should take steps to foster a kinder, more responsible culture, instead of simply pouring money into new locks and paper towel dispensers.

Many of the BHS bathrooms’ problems are caused by vandalism and the irresponsibility of students. “Lots of (the stalls) don’t have locks and stuff, so there tends to be lines,” said Dodge. BHS bathroom stalls are missing locks because many of them were broken off and stolen by students. Vaping is also a huge problem in bathrooms. “I’ve been to the bathrooms and there’ve been lots of people standing in clusters just talking or vaping or something,” said BHS freshman Violet Potts. 

This problem of students mistreating the bathrooms has existed for a long time. In late 2021, the “devious lick” TikTok trend caused students at BHS to go so far as to rip stall doors off of their hinges, steal soap dispensers, and purposefully clog toilets. Many of the problems with the BHS bathrooms don’t require more funding; they require a student cultural shift. 

One way BHS could go about fixing the culture problem is to focus on education and awareness. By showing students the harm their actions have on other people, not only on fellow students but also on school custodians, students may understand the weight of their actions. “Every single day it’s messy with some paper towels and tissues,” said Esperanza, who is part of the BHS janitorial staff. “The floor is wet or the (trash) bags are totally overflowing.” Many students who make these messes are unaware of the effects on the people cleaning them up. 

An ideal way to present this information is through peer education. Groups such as SHIFT (Sexual Health Information From Teens) and HERO (Harm Education and Reduction Organization) have already shown how powerful peer education is. At this age, the most important opinions to teenagers are often that of their peers. Students may be more likely to understand if it is other students challenging them.

BHS has a long way to go to having consistently clean and usable bathrooms. However, the first step is not to pour more money into the issue, but instead, to educate and bring awareness to students in order to create a cultural shift.