No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks–and no more teachers saying “no” when kids have to go. School is finally out for the summer, and kids are free to pee to their hearts’ content once again.
I had no idea that bathroom breaks were such an issue.
As a card-carrying member of “the Amazing Mini Bladderini Family,” I cringed–and almost immediately felt the urge to pee–when I read the headline in USA Today: “Teachers can say no when kids have to go.” Yet there it was in black and white.
What is it with teachers and peeing? Almost everyone I know has a “holding it till I was about to burst” story from elementary school. Then there was a huge controversy in Norway when a teacher wanted boys to sit to pee. It dominated the news for weeks. But I thought those days were over in the United States. I guess not.
We’re still wacko when it comes to potty breaks in school. A short time ago, a sixth-grader in Magnolia, Ohio wet his pants during a standardized test after a teacher refused to let him use the bathroom. In Charleston, South Carolina, a teacher made students pee into a trashcan during a lockdown drill. And in Sacramento, an eighth-grader recently urinated into a Gatorade bottle in a classroom corner because his teacher had refused to dismiss him.
All I can say is, “Ew, yuck!”
Since when is peeing a privilege? I always thought it was a right. A biological imperative, in fact.
I get that teachers have to balance classroom control with the varied and hard-to-predict potty practices of their students, but is it really that complicated? If you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.
And yet, not all teachers see it that way. They say that the reasons for limiting bathroom use are to keep children from cheating on tests, disrupting the class, getting out of doing class work, or getting into mischief.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that children should be free to pee, but the mischief menace is no myth. While it’s possible they may have been lighting matches to get rid of the odors, after five fires were started in the bathrooms over the course of five days, a school in North Carolina (what is it with the Carolina’s and peeing?) started requiring students to have an adult escort when they went to the bathroom. The students protested by wearing numbered t-shirts reminiscent of those worn by prison inmates.
OK, so that may have been a bit drama club, but serious academic research done at the University of Iowa is showing that children are developing bladder problems because they are being denied the opportunity to go to the bathroom at school. As a result, doctors are seeing more and more urinary tract infections, incontinence, and damaged kidneys caused by infrequent trips to the bathroom.
The right to pee movement even has a de facto spokeswoman named Laurie A. Couture, a New England-based teacher, social worker, mental health counselor and political child advocate who is urging students to sign petitions when necessary and talk to their parents, teachers, and principals to stand up for their rights to “bodily integrity.”
Of course teachers aren’t really free to pee whenever they feel the urge during class time either. Perhaps that’s the real reason behind those gigantic grins on their faces this summer.
To audition for the Amazing Mini Bladderini Family, share your holding it horror stories with Leslie at Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com.
Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on June 22, 2007