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Tuesday, 9 April 2019

School district removes bathroom stall doors citing safety concerns amid threats — but some girls aren't having it

An Illinois school district has brought back an old trend by removing stall doors from the bathrooms at Beardstown Middle/High School in response to threats scrawled on the walls. While open stalls used to be commonplace in schools, Beardstown students are pushing back in the name of privacy.

What are the details?

On March 22, the school went on lockdown after a threat that was eventually "not determined to be credible" was found scribbled on a bathroom wall, administrators reported. Days later, another undisclosed message was discovered in a bathroom, resulting in a second call to police and enhanced security measures. On March 28, a third threat was found, and the school was put under a "soft" lockdown and students were released while authorities conducted an investigation. 

Officials began using metal detectors on students and conducting bag searches, according to the Journal-Courier, before ultimately deciding the bathroom stall doors needed to go.
"You have to understand when kids have a place to spend time, whether it's a minute or five minutes sometimes things happen whether it's good, bad or otherwise," Superintendent Ron Gilbert explained to WISC-TV. "It has helped limit some of the things that were taking place."

Yahoo Lifestyle reported that the decision came as a "shock" to students and parents, particularly over privacy concerns for females.

"Mostly girls have been bringing blankets from their house and hanging it up in the stalls so people can't see them," student Juan Juarez told WISC. "Yesterday people started putting their shoes and boots in front of the stall so people would know they're in the bathroom."

In spite of pushback, Gilbert defended the decision to take the doors off the bathroom stalls, telling the State Journal-Register, "Restrooms are for one purpose only. We understand everyone's concerns. We're not going to put people in situations that are harmful to anyone."

He added, "If you're going to spend a bunch of time in there not using the restroom for what it's for, you have to take some measures to keep everybody safe."
While the school has not specified the threats made, WISC reported at least one message warned of a school shooting.

Anything else?

The Journal-Register pointed out that "years ago, door-less stalls in schools weren't unusual. Then, the fear was students were smoking cigarettes, or something stronger, in the restroom."

But times have changed, and while the district defends its decision, it has allowed students to utilize private facilities like the nurse's bathroom when necessary. Gilbert said the stall doors aren't gone for good, anyway — they'll be brought back at some point after the investigation into the threats is resolved.

"I just want people to understand when you're dealing with school safety, people want every timeline and minute detail," he told the Journal-Register. "We can't do that. We're dealing with minors, and we're also dealing with law enforcement."

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