Parents voice concern over locked bathrooms at schools

Published 12:10 am Saturday, May 13, 2023

It appears there has been some truth to allegations that bathrooms in at least two of the Rowan County high schools have been locked during the school day.

This week, a number of parents of Rowan County high school students contacted the Post and the Rowan Salisbury Schools administrative staff to question their children’s reports that the bathrooms in the high schools had been locked for the entire school day, despite assertions from staff that they were only to be locked for the first half hour of school.

Students told parents that teachers and administrators at both North Rowan and Salisbury High School claimed bathrooms would be locked for the first 30 minutes of the school day because “some kids had been caught smoking in the bathroom,” said one father of a North Rowan junior. “But my son said the bathrooms haven’t been unlocked, and there is not always someone available to unlock them.”

He did reach out to the RSS administrative offices on Tuesday, and a spokesperson there said “as soon as we were made aware, we contacted the schools and let them know they had to unlock the bathrooms.” The parent, who asked not to be identified in print for fear of retaliation against his child, said it was clear during the first call that the administration did not know the bathrooms were being locked. He said according to his child, the practice has been going on for as long as two months, but that could not be confirmed.

The RSS spokesperson did say administration was aware of several incidents of vandalism and smoking in the bathrooms at more than one school, and said it appears at least two high schools, North Rowan and Salisbury, chose to lock the doors as a preventative measure.

But RSS Superintendent Dr. Kelly Withers made it clear that locking the bathrooms is not an acceptable solution.

“There is a system-wide expectation that bathrooms are accessible to students,” she said. As of Friday morning, it was confirmed that no bathroom doors at any of the high schools are now locked. In addition, an allegation that bathrooms at West Rowan had also been locked was not likely, given that “the majority of their bathrooms don’t have main hallway doors,” so there are no doors to lock.

In addition, one parent alleged that their daughter had been given in-school suspension for being late to class because she had to go across the school campus to find an open bathroom, something school administrators said is not accurate.

RSS administration officials review, every morning, a full report of any and all disciplinary actions from the previous day, and if it had shown up that a student was penalized for simply being late to class, it would have been a red flag, because there is no policy on the books that would allow such penalty.

“We are not discounting what parents are saying,” said the spokesperson, “but we would not support locking bathrooms on any campus.”