Slaves to the Bell- The Fifteen-Minute Rule

Olivia Booth
Drawn by Deborah Keyes

It’s a fairly typical Monday in the beginning of the school year. Everyone looks as though they’ve gotten two hours of sleep, even the teachers seem unmotivated in the lackluster light of the early morning. Then a friend turns to me and says something astonishing,

“I need to go to the bathroom so bad!”

Then why not go?

The solution is simple. If someone needs the bathroom, then they should go to the bathroom. Only one restriction stands in the way of bladder freedom: the 15-minute rule.

This rule was implemented at Henrico High School in the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year. Students may freely use the bathroom facilities in the first fifteen minutes of class, but after that, the doors are locked and the only way into those stalls is through an administrative escort or through the discretion of the teacher.

The rule seems absurd, even unethical, however, Mrs. Castillo-Rose, our principal, asserts that the fifteen-minute rule was put into effect for the “protection of instructional time”.

From this perspective, the policy is an airbag in a car crash. Many students take advantage of the time they are given to use the restrooms by roaming around campus aimlessly. Consequently, grades plummet and it becomes challenging for these students to keep up with the curriculum.

However, what was not considered in this decision was the bathroom-deprived student. As any Warrior who has had to sit in class with crossed legs would know, it is tremendously difficult- even impossible to concentrate when battling the nature of the human body.

Mrs. Castillo-Rose defends the rule by reasoning that “in case of emergencies, students can request to use the bathroom and teachers have been instructed to call the front office and allow them to go with a pass. There are 2 restrooms always open that are monitored by administration. Restrooms are also open throughout all lunches”. While these exceptions make the rule easier to comply with, there are still some things that have yet to be considered.

A business in Chicago, WaterSaver Faucet Company, recently got into trouble with the Union for their bathroom restrictions. The company punished employees who spent more than 30 minutes in the restroom in the span of a week. Additionally, they offered $20 gift cards to those who didn’t use the bathroom at all during their shifts. A similar concept has been employed at our own school.

Our ‘gift cards’ come in the form of extra credit bathroom passes that many teachers have been handing out to students. The stipulation: students must ‘hold it in’ in order to receive this extra credit. As the end of the marking period approaches, students become increasingly desperate to pull up their grades and all concerns about the health risks are cast aside.

According to Toronto Naturopathic Health Clinic, refraining from urinating makes one more likely to develop a urinary tract infection, so it is actually dangerous to encourage ‘holding it in’.

In this way, the rule is a great obstacle to students at Henrico. A concept that was intended to improve the quality and quantity of instructional time actually distracts the students who are in class and makes them more susceptible to infection. As my friend can testify, nothing was learned in those last minutes before the bell rang because all she could think about was how desperately she needed to use the bathroom.

Here we run into a pattern in the decision-making of Henrico staff members. Desperate to better the school, actions are taken which only superficially solve the problem (for example, following a major fight in 2013, staff threatened to cancel the homecoming dance).

In replacement of a drastic change- like locking bathroom doors or canceling a school dance- small alterations should be made. One solution is to prolong the transition time.

Though students are given transition time between classes, often there is not enough time to use the bathrooms. Increasing this transition period from 6 to 9 minutes would allow students to use the bathroom prior to the beginning of class. Additionally, this subtracts only about 9 more minutes from the school day as opposed to the wasted first fifteen minutes of class in which 10 students are all begging their teacher for passes to the already-overcrowded bathrooms.

Attendance is fundamental to the learning process and everyone should appreciate the emphasis placed on quality learning at our school, however, not only does the fifteen-minute rule distract the bathroom-needing student, but it also requests that nature is put on hold. Ultimately, asking students to ‘hold it in’ is no less bizarre than asking the clouds to hold in the rain.


2 thoughts on “Slaves to the Bell- The Fifteen-Minute Rule

  1. Mr. Engel

    Good article Editor! I’d like to suggest something on the part of students that can help alleviate the issue though…go to the bathroom rather than standing with your friends joking on the walkway! If you decide you’re going to be late, make it worthwhile by at least using the bathroom. Old teachers like me don’t see that you haven’t gone for the past three hours. All we know is that sometimes kids come in late and ask to use the restroom once every class period. Really, now? My three year old has better bladder control sometimes. If everyone did what they were supposed to and were not tardy to class, there wouldn’t even be a need for a fifteen minute rule!!!! I’m not necessarily in favor of it, but I will enforce it the best I can. The institution of this rule only solidifies the belief that “students are their own worst enemy”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good point Mr. Engel! However, the majority of students are not “joking on the walkway” when they should be in class. Punishing everyone in school for something that a few students do is a poor solution to the problem.
      6 minutes is not enough time to use the bathroom and to walk across campus. Even after the bell rings, some bathrooms are still locked. Perhaps better-disciplining the students who skip class or come late is the solution, but it’s laughably unethical to tell a student that they cannot use the bathroom.
      Finally, at the end of your comment you stated, “students are their own worst enemy”. I think we should all reconsider that. That implies that students collectively punish themselves, when in reality, many students abide by the rules. A better principle to run the school by is “students are their own worst enemies”, but that’s just one student’s opinion.

      Liked by 2 people

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