How to Have a Reasonable Restroom Policy in Your Classroom

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I teach 5th grade. I have a student who visits the bathroom whenever he is bored. Yesterday he left the room ten times. I don’t believe in limiting bathroom breaks, because it’s a bodily right. He is missing a lot of instruction and it’s getting increasingly worse. What should I do? -Libby, St. Paul, Minnesota


I think you should go back in time and unlearn this “students should be able to wander to the bathroom whenever they please ‘bodily right’” nonsense. This is one of those ideas that some non-teacher came up with that is designed to give people a warm fuzzy feeling all over but is wholly and completely impractical due to the laws of time and space being what they are.

The idea that students, without some kind of relevant medical issue, should be allowed to go to the bathroom whenever they want is just as ridiculous as giving unlimited time for students to eat breakfast or lunch, or giving kids unlimited time to complete work. Here’s why:


And it’s not how life works. Kids do have certain rights, but unlimited tours of the school bathroom, unlimited and undisturbed dining time, and unlimited time to get work done are not among those rights. What students also have, besides the right to safety, the opportunity to eat food and have an education, are responsibilities.

Remember those?

Kids, as well as adults, have the responsibility to live within limits that are created in order to have a functional school and a functional society. School, and the world at large, has rules and limits. People have to learn to live within those limits.

It is simply impossible and impractical to allow kids to spend an hour in the bathroom every day just because they feel like it since, during that time, they are usually not monitored and because they are missing instruction (which affects their actual right to an education).

Of course, use your teacher wisdom, cunning powers of interrogation, and common sense to discern when a student really, truly is having a bathroom emergency, but here is how I would change my procedure from now on:

Kid Whisperer: OK class, we are changing the bathroom policy. From now on, the boy with the lowest student number, in this case, Tay’shon who is number 1, and the girl with the lowest student number, in this case Tracy, who is number 2, will both go to the bathroom at 9:30 in the morning and 1:30 in the afternoon. You don’t have to ask me, you can just go. Then, when you come back, you will tag the person of your same gender who has the next lowest number. We will do this twice a day until everyone has gone to the bathroom. Take a moment to notice the boy or girl who has the next number up from yours, and perhaps notice who comes after that just in case someone is absent. These will be the only chances to use the bathroom during the day. Any questions?

Kid: My mom says that I am to be treated as an honored guest in my classroom just as I am at home. Your new policy falls woefully short insofar as it does not afford me the treatment to which I have become accustomed. What say you?

Kid Whisperer: Your mom is wrong. Hooray new bathroom policy. Any other questions?

Of course, if you teach kindergarten next year, you may want to throw another break in there, but, otherwise, two breaks should be sufficient for 1st grade and up.

Remember that if advice seems too cute to be good, it probably is.