Students and faculty work to bring back paper towels
By Hannah Spranger, Co-Content Editor
On Nov. 25, principal Danny Rock sent out an email to the student body explaining that, due to frequent toilet clogging as a result of paper towels being stuffed in the toilets, paper towels would be removed from the bathrooms in order to avoid plumbing issues. After hearing student and health professional feedback, paper towels are gradually being added back to the bathroom.
The original removal followed a trend of students misusing the bathrooms.
“It wasn’t just paper towels, we had students shoving, you know, forks and apples and other things in the toilets,” Rock said. “When something lodges deep enough into the plumbing, it can become incredibly expensive and it can have a pretty big impact on our physical infrastructure.”
After the change was enacted, Rock heard more complaints about the situation from the female members of the student body than the males.
“It’s overwhelmingly the female students I’ve heard from, so I don’t know if our female students are more impacted by not having paper towels, or if the problem was more that boys were shoving paper towels into the toilets,” he said.
Senior Samantha Ziegler expressed the lack of trust she felt from administration after the original decision to remove the paper towels.
“I’m deciding what to do for the rest of my life here very soon,” Ziegler said. “I am expected to become an adult basically, and I can’t be trusted with paper towels when I go to the bathroom?”
Other students reasoned that until the student body could take responsibility for their actions, they would have to deal with the consequences.
“If kids are gonna ruin [having paper towels], then they can’t complain about why they’re being punished,” senior Jeremiah Bogaard said.
The main issue many students brought up regarding the lack of towels was the health concerns it raised.
“I think not having paper towels incentivizes people not to wash their hands,” senior Maya Harrison said. “If we don’t have paper towels [people are] like, ‘I don’t want to get my hands wet. I don’t want to wash my hands.’”
Students raised similar concerns to Rock, referencing a study done by the American Society for Microbiology, which found that hot air hand dryers expel bacteria onto the users’ hands.
“I haven’t done any research related to [hand dryers], but the custodial staff … resets spaces each day, and they use products that are both safe, but also strong enough to kill viruses and bacteria,” Rock said.
Because much of the misuse of paper towels was taking place in the all gender and male bathrooms, on Rock brought back paper towels to the girls bathroom on a trial basis on Feb 13.
“They were added back first to the female restroom downstairs because of student requests, and because we had never had a problem that had originated out of that girls bathroom,” Rock said.
As of Monday, March 2, paper towels were added back to all of the bathrooms due to concerns surrounding the spread of coronavirus.
“We got guidance from public health around the coronavirus that having hand dryers or paper towels available are important, and what we were hearing is the students weren’t even using the driers,” Rock said. “If that’s true, then the paper towels are more sanitary.”
Four days after paper towels returned to all bathrooms, the boy’s restroom experienced vandalism.
“In the boys bathroom, the paper towel [dispenser] was ripped off the wall, completely vandalism,” Rock said. “Yesterday, a toilet was flooded with paper towels and unfortunately, the reason for their removal returned right away.”
Rock encourages students to consider how they deal with their emotions in the future, and to avoid making the job of custodial staff more difficult.
“I would ask students to think about ways to express their anger and/or their mischief in other ways,” Rock said. “The way students can help … is to tell their friends, ‘I want my paper towels, don’t fricken stuff my toilets full of garbage.’”
Rock stressed that it is students’ responsibility to help each other and keep the bathrooms free of vandalism so that paper towels can remain a constant.
“I’m really wanting our students to help each other because this is obviously just a couple of people,” Rock said. “They are going to be able to avoid adult attention, or it’s going to be harder for them to avoid attention from their peers.”
After the fears of the effects of coronavirus fade, Rock will reevaluate if paper towels should be present in the bathrooms.
“The female bathroom was restocked because there were no previous concerns in that space,” Rock said. “Even if the coronavirus goes away more quickly than I think it’s likely to go away, I wouldn’t change that. The boys bathroom is a different story.”