Forcing Elementary School Students To 'Earn' Bathroom Breaks Is A Horrible Idea

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 

A Houston mother isn’t happy about the way her child’s school handles bathroom breaks. Sarah Moreno says her elementary school-aged kids have to “earn” passes to use the bathroom. She’s gotten doctor’s notes to exempt her kids from the practice in the past, but stumbled upon two of the passes in her sixth grader’s binder this week.

She told ABC 13 that she’s “fed up” with her children needing to earn the right to use the bathroom, which she describes as a “natural occurrence.” Is it excusable to make elementary school-aged kids “earn” the right to use the bathroom?

The district has an explanation for the policy: “The restroom/drink of water coupon is simply one of many incentives created by classroom teachers to motivate and encourage students to maximize their instructional time.” The district thinks the policy teaches good time management and shows kids how to plan their days appropriately.

Time management is important, but I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be knowing my elementary school-aged child was having restrictions put on when he could use the bathroom. It’s hard enough for kids to transition to being away from home all day and peeing on demand, rather than when their bodies really need to. I’m an adult and I can’t force myself to go during scheduled breaks when another human decides it’s convenient. Why do we assume that simply because it’s recess or another scheduled break, a child needs to use the restroom?

This seems like a situation that could be better handled by reigning those who overuse bathroom breaks in – not painting such a broad stroke and potentially causing stress for students who may be wary about approaching their teacher about such things to begin with. Forcing children to “hold it” can also contribute to problems like UTI‘s. From a USA Today report: “Christopher Cooper, director of pediatric urology at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital in Iowa City, says he has seen many elementary-age ‘normal children who have developed bad habits.’ They arrive at his office with urinary tract infections, incontinence and damaged kidneys, often as a result of infrequent trips to the bathroom.”

It would be total chaos if there were no scheduled bathroom breaks at elementary schools, so the necessity to have them is understandable. But let’s not punish kids before they’ve proven that the are abusing the system. Forcing a kid to “earn” a bathroom break like it’s some kind of reward is ridiculous.

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