HONOLULU (KHON2) — From vandalism to vaping Hawaii public schools regularly deal with problems happening inside their school bathrooms. According to a high school principal and teacher, the biggest challenge is ensuring kids are safe without violating their privacy.
The video cameras installed outside of bathroom stalls at Kea’au High School were intended to “enhance the safety and security” due to the “occurrence of school security incidents.”
Parents and students clapped back sighting privacy concerns. The sharp disapproval leading the Department of Education to move the cameras away from the bathroom stalls.
So what is happening in public school bathrooms? And how are schools addressing those problems?
KHON2 News met with the James Sunday, Principal at Radford High School, to talk about it.
“If you’re talking about the safety and security of campus bathrooms, that’s a very sensitive topic aren’t they?” asked KHON2.
“Correct,” Sunday said. “I mean that’s an area like I said where kids you know um, it’s a private area… We don’t want kids to congregate in there and other things happen.”
Kapolei High School teacher Brooke Nasser said there are a slew of nefarious activities going down inside the bathrooms.
“The two biggest things are vaping and bullying,” she explained. “And then the last issue that seems to arise in bathrooms is vandalism and graffiti.”
Each of those things, creating an unsafe environment.
She said three ways most schools deter the bad behavior: limiting, monitoring, and restricting bathroom use.
According to Sunday, there are some new devices on the market.
“Some schools use vape detectors,” he explained. “It’s a system that we haven’t put into our bathrooms. Again, we try to use more personnel that are stationed outside of restrooms, patrolling or custodians going in on a regular basis and cleaning and monitoring the area.”
Nasser said monitoring bathrooms with security is very effective.
“But you know, there are lots of bathrooms, there are lots of students, no school campus has the number of security that you would need to post a security guard outside of every bathroom,” said Nasser.
And she said the problems are only getting worse.
“There seems to have been an increase in vandalism and graffiti since COVID,” Nasser said. “And so I think a lot of bathroom issues are related to a decrease in community engagement.”
She said one long term solution that the DOE is already trying to implement is focusing on student belonging and creating a feeling of school pride and engagement.
Nasser added that the problem goes far beyond school campuses.
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“If you look at any bathroom, public bathroom, across the state, in private businesses at public parks everywhere, there’s graffiti and vandalism,” she said.