Petitions, Walkouts, and Rage, Oh My!

Petitions were made, tweets were tweeted, snapchats were sent, and walkouts were planned, but why? On Friday April 12, 2019, the day before spring break, students were outraged by the administration’s decision to lock all bathrooms in the school except two single stall restrooms. This decision was made mainly in response to suspected vaping in the bathrooms, but multiple other issues played a role in the decision as well. In an effort to calm the storm, Principal DeNuzzo sat down with the school’s class officers to discuss the problems, but more importantly, to seek out an alternative solution.

Photo Credit: Isabella Ragaini

Students began to speak out on the issue as soon as the policy began. By third period of the first day, it was all anyone could talk about. Senior Casey Marshall tweeted, “@WTNH I am flabbergasted. The East Haven High School administration has locked all 8+ bathrooms except for two single stall bathrooms in the school, limiting the amount of time students have to use the bathrooms between and during classes.” As of the date of publication, he has racked up an impressive 66 retweets and 88 likes. This tweet started started a series of other tweets and complaints about the bathrooms across multiple social media platforms. Casey, who meant the tweet as a joke, was surprised by the reaction he received. “I thought it would be funny to make a fake reaction. Most of my peers took the tweet serious and rallied around it,” said Casey. Not even meaning to, Casey brought the school together and inspired more students to speak out on the issue. Several different groups of students went table to table during lunches racking up signatures, while one student planned a walkout and printed out flyers promoting it.

The returning Monday, April 22, 2019, Mr. DeNuzzo called down the class officers from each grade to tackle the ever growing issue. The meeting began by identifying the problems prior to the closing of the bathrooms, after the closing of the bathrooms, and possible solutions moving forward.

Junior class treasurer Alexis Pendziwater expressed, “We all understood why he had closed the bathrooms and we felt better knowing the reason why he had closed them.” After pointing out the issues, the class officers and administration worked together to come up with a compromise. While continuing the one student in/one student out procedure with staff supervision, they agreed upon opening more multi-stall gender specific bathrooms.

The class officers also decided they wanted to have grade-level assemblies to relay this information to the rest of the student body. However, DeNuzzo wanted to add a little something different to this assembly by letting the class officers present the information. DeNuzzo said, “This is your school- we want students to demonstrate leadership.” He continued, “When students hear it from their classmates that, ‘this is something we came up with; this is not something administration said,’ hopefully its received better.” During the assembly, all the class officers sat on the stage and passed the microphone around as they each explained a portion of what they discussed during their meeting. Senior class historian Jenna Esposito said, “We were there to show our peers that we, as well as the administration, are on their side.” Overall, the assembly was effective and the students responded well to the message. Senior Mikayla Raffone, who sat through the entire assembly, explained, “The assembly helped me understand why the bathrooms are locked. However, I think the officers could have talked more.” On the other hand, senior Michaela D’Amato described the assembly as “confusing.” She noted, “I wish the officers talked more than administration because I like listening to what our own class body has to say at our age level. I also wish it had audience involvement because I wanted to hear the different opinions from our own students.”

Credit: Mr. Vincent DeNuzzo

After the assemblies, the hype around the issue finally subsided. English teacher Ms. Boisvert, who monitors the English wing bathrooms during second period, noted that while there are not as many issues, there are, “still certain groups of kids who abuse the new policy and it results in backup.” However, no student has ever disrespected her. On the other hand, Mrs. Tracey, whose classroom is across from one of the single stall bathrooms, witnessed one student making a fuss while swearing at the substitute on duty. Besides that instance, she said, “Most of the students have been very polite and pleasant.” Although students still do not see this as a perfect solution, overall they are happy that more bathrooms are open.

DeNuzzo sees this policy as temporary, but necessary for the time being. He stated, “Ultimately, what I’d like to get to is a point where we have bathrooms open and we don’t limit anybody. If we see good progress maybe it’s a 2 person in/ 2 person out plan and we can step up from there, continuing to get students to do the right things.” The administration will keep looking to improve this system for the last month of school, but more importantly, the next school year. If there are any questions on the updated bathroom policy, please contact Mr. DeNuzzo or any of the class officers.