Increased security creates suspicion and concern
October 17, 2022
Students returned to campus this year following severe violence and lack of security in Texas schools. With the need for new safety measures, Bowie has added/revised its policies to make the school a safe and secure environment where students feel safe attending.
These policies were created in response to recent shootings, drug abuse, and student misconduct. They are made to keep students safe.
The Dispatch believes that these changes were made with good and noble reasons but are executed poorly. While these rules need to be implemented, their current state is unrealistic when reflecting on student life and what we need.
One of these policies does not allow students to carry over-the-counter medications with them to take whenever they like. This stops students from abusing drugs on campus as well as disguising illegal substances as over-the-counter drugs; ultimately keeping students safe from addiction.
However, this removes the ability to access to over-the-counter and perscribed medication where immediate use is necessary; such as medication combating Panic Disorders, migraines, abdominal pain, etc. These medications should be allowed to be carried by students.
These medications tend not to be abused and it is unfair for students’ medications to be withheld from them, especially in times of crisis.
While we should trust students to make the right choices, we have abused our previous restroom policy. This can be seen when kids are roaming the halls, talking with friends, or even vaping in a crowd of 12 when supposed to use the facilities. This year’s bathroom policy was put in place to combat that.
To stop students from hurting their education, health, and habits, their movement was restricted. Students can only use the restroom residing in the same hallway with a pass displaying their hallway’s designated color to catch wandering students. This policy was made to help students stay on top of their education and stop bad habits.
However, this intention is grossly skewed. It disregards the sad truth that our facilities aren’t usable. Bathrooms are missing doors, locks, toilet seats, soap, etc. They lack comfort and safety. Students avoid these broken bathrooms by using a different hall’s safe and comfortable one. This also helps students avoid those who use the facilities incorrectly, i.e. vaping, and makes it easier for students to find a usable bathroom to use to take care of nature’s needs.
When finding a suitable bathroom, this policy doesn’t take into account how some students need a gender-neutral bathroom to feel safe and comfortable. Because not every hallway has a gender-neutral bathroom and would require the student to appear wandering, this puts non-cis-gender students at risk of being pulled aside and embarrassed by an AP or faculty.
As stated on the Bowie website for a student to be checked out early, a guardian must park in the short-term visitor parking, enter the main office and present identification, and then wait while the office staff completes their procedure to check their student out of class. Students can also be checked out through parent email and/or phone call, but this can take up to three hours sometimes never releasing the student on time or at all.
This policy is in response to student misconduct: leaving throughout the middle of the school day when not permitted to do so. It is the job of the school to ensure student safety which involves making sure students don’t leave campus without guardian approval. Bowie, and every school a student attends, is liable for student safety, but when a student leaves campus unpermitted the risk of student injury is the school’s responsibility.
However, this policy is unrealistic when accounting for how spontaneous student lives are. When a student has to leave campus urgently and immediately, a three-hour waiting period, with the potential to never be released, is unacceptable. Student dismissal shouldn’t take longer than if a student’s guardian were to show up on campus.
After tragic events regarding the Uvalde shooting where a non-student entered the campus, our ID policy has become a centerpiece for student safety. Requiring IDs at all times throughout the day and being checked upon campus entry are all important to keep students safe.
When looking directly at the change in ID design, with the addition of a bar-code, it’s obvious how important IDs are for student well-being. Following a student stroke last year, these bar codes were implemented to make it easier to get the medical treatment that is needed when emergencies require it which is why IDs are to be worn at all times.
Faculty are stationed at the entrance to check for students only during mornings when students enter campus for first period, and during lunch to ensure only seniors are leaving campus. When no staff member is stationed to check IDs, the duty falls onto a buzzer-camera duo. To be buzzed in, identification is required to make it virtually impossible for a student to enter the building without their ID.
Sadly, it’s extremely easy to wander past our school’s “security” with no identification. Faculty members are given the cold shoulder by students or lied to, and the buzzer requires no visible identification for students to gain entrance. Because of this, IDs have become useless and void of purpose.
One possible solution to solve the new medication policy is to require parental approval in the form of a note, email, form, phone call, text, etc. While this does leave room for deceptive students it’s not difficult to call a student’s parent. This makes it so that students are capable of bringing prescription or over-the-counter medications making a more comfortable environment for students while still holding students accountable and keeping everyone safe.
All it should take for a student to leave campus is approval from a guardian. Faculty collecting a student from their classroom shouldn’t be necessary because teachers should be informed either by a student’s parent or from the front office that a student is to be dismissed.
IDs could be used to scan into the building when no faculty is present, but if a student is missing their ID, their ID number should suffice. We have the equipment put in place already for students to scan in and all that would need to be done is adding students to the school’s system to allow for scanning into the building.
While these are all possible solutions, one thing Bowie needs to do is create an open, honest dialogue with students about why these policies were created.
All students have been informed about these policies with the only motivation to follow them is that they’ll get in trouble if they don’t, and the only reasoning being that past students have broken policies and were out of control. Talking to students like equals telling us directly the real dangers of not following these policies will give students a real reason to follow them.
Bowie needs to make these policies with both safety and leniency to account for the spontaneousness and changing lives of students. We should strive to make students feel safe and comfortable.
Letter to the editor: Gender-neutral bathrooms misused and mistreated with unsafe behavior and vaping
The situation with the new gender-neutral bathroom has escalated to a level of disturbance that needs to be addressed. The main reason we have it is to make a safe space for trans students at Bowie, but now it has become the opposite. Most of the people using it go in there to engage in unsafe activities (i.e vaping) and crowd themselves in to abuse this new space. This behavior has made trans students feel unsafe, unwelcome, and robbed of personal space and respect. This needs to change. What we need to do is educate other Bowie students about why we have this bathroom and teach them how to behave in other ways that make their trans peers feel more content and safer.
While it may seem that the existence of transgender people is new, transgender people have been around for centuries in cultures and history as early as 5000 B.C. There are transgender people in all societies across the globe. “Lili Elbe, a Danish painter was the first person who got a documented sex reassignment surgery to address her gender dysphoria in 1930.
Currently, the Human Rights Campaign estimates that there are more than 2 million transgender people in the United States. In fact, one in five adults in the United States know someone who uses non-binary pronouns other than he or she. However, even today transgender people face discrimination.75.1% of transgender students feel unsafe at school because of their gender expression, 63.4% of transgender students reported avoiding bathrooms, and 41% of transgender or gender non-conforming people have attempted suicide. In addition, research has shown that 36% of transgender or non-binary students reported being sexually assaulted in the last 12 months at school. According to a May 6, 2019 CNN article, one out of every four, reported being a victim of sexual assault.
For all of these reasons, all gender restrooms are necessary for our transgender students to feel safe. Bowie has only two all gender restrooms. However, recently students report feeling that these restrooms are “unsafe” due to students misusing them for inappropriate activities. We aren’t saying the restroom is only for trans people, but cis-gender people already have many restrooms to use.
When asked for testimonies about the situation, these were some of the responses we got from trans or queer individuals. “I feel angry about the situation. The gender-neutral bathrooms [are intended to be a safe space] for trans students to use the bathroom and now some of my friends are not wanting to use them because of the vaping. This creates an unsafe space for non-binary people.”
Another student said, “I haven’t been in the gender-neutral bathrooms because there’s ALWAYS way too many people in there to feel comfortable walking in.”
Another issue in bathrooms in general is that people need privacy. As one student states, “It’s awkward for anyone to use the bathroom with a hoard of people who are just standing around not even using the facilities, it’s not just a gender-neutral issue… Plus, it’s a bathroom! People do their business there! Do y’all not understand how disgusting bathrooms are? It blows my mind that people choose to stand around there for fun.”
Gender neutral restrooms are intended to provide a safe and private place for transgender and non-binary students to change and use the restroom. Students need to respect these guidelines, so that our most marginalized students have a safe place. Bowie should be an inclusive community that respects all students. Be considerate.
SAGA students spark action against recent bathroom misuse
You walk through the entrance of the all-gender bathroom, admiring the sleek look of the new facility. You step in, but what you see is not what you expected. The smell of plywood and new concrete is only a faint memory, now replaced with the pungent smell of vapes. Your ears ring as a group of students shout, clumped together in a mosh pit. There’s not enough space. Hesitantly, you retreat out of the restroom, a feeling of annoyance brewing inside.
In the past few weeks, the all-gender restrooms on campus have reportedly been misused and vandalized by students during lunch, FIT, and passing periods. Students in the Sexuality and Gender Acceptance Club (SAGA) created fliers to advocate against the misuse of the all-gender restrooms. The initiative was first brought up at the latest SAGA meeting.
“We were talking about things that we wanted to change in the school,” junior Elliott Head said. “Someone brought up how dangerous it was in the bathroom and we all just sort of started coming up with more stories that we heard about stuff that happened in there.”
The fliers were posted outside of the bathrooms and were shared through social media. The postings have sparked varying reactions from students.
“We were handing them out outside of the bathroom during second lunch,” Head said. “A group of dudes took a bunch of fliers and they went into the bathroom with them and balled them up and used them to clog the sink.”
Senior Rogue Clawson has mixed feelings about the gender-neutral restrooms.
“On one hand, I was happy to have a space where I didn’t feel pressured to conform to any gender,” Clawson said. “But on the other hand, I was really annoyed that people were being selfish and making the restroom unusable.”
English teacher and club sponsor Bree Rolfe has been providing support to SAGA to help navigate this issue.
“One of my students sent me a Remind message that was like, ‘this is what I’d like to discuss at the next meeting,” Rolfe said. “This is like, really, people are afraid to use the restroom. I went down there to look, since it’s not my duty station. It was not good. What they had been reporting to me was true, and maybe a little worse than what I had thought. Since then, I’ve just been sitting with my students to just be an extra adult presence.”
Rolfe is an active member of Education Austin, a union that focuses on issues pertaining to employees and educators throughout AISD.
“I just basically taught them the structures that we use in Education Austin,” Rolfe said, “Where you pick your actions, that kind of escalates like if this doesn’t work, we’ll try this. And then we split off into little subcommittees.”
Last year, the fine arts hallway was closed to student use as renovations were underway. The new facilities opened at the beginning of the semester, including male, female, and gender-neutral restrooms in the H hall.
“I don’t think we as a staff did a good job of educating the kids on what an all-gender restroom is for, ” Rolfe said. “Our feeling behind this entire campaign is that if we speak to the student body and explain it, that this is one of two safe spaces for transgender or non-binary students to use the restroom, that they will do the right thing and respect the space.”
The bathroom includes only three stalls, one being a changing space.
“There’s a stall that doesn’t have a toilet, but it’s a changing stall. It’s for transgender students that don’t want to change for dance or PE in front of a big group of kids,” Rolfe said. “What I would like is for teachers to help, and so my students have been reaching out to their teachers about hanging signs in their room, or working on a video to distribute to other teachers to play.”
Through vandalism in the restrooms, even a trashcan fire, and reports of inappropriate activity in restrooms across campus last year, this isn’t a new problem for Bowie.
“I surveyed my sophomores and a lot of them were like, I never use the restroom at school. They’re dirty, they’re gross, I feel uncomfortable, and that’s sad,” Rolfe said. “You shouldn’t have to hold your bodily functions for eight hours a day.”
Principal Mark Robinson announced through morning announcements that the bathrooms are supposed to be a safe space for students under the transgender umbrella and are not a space for inappropriate activities. Two at a time rules proposed by SAGA have been implemented in the gender-neutral bathrooms. Supervisors are placed in the hallway outside of the restrooms to enforce this rule.
“I don’t want this to be just a SAGA issue,” Rolfe said. “SAGA’s a decent-sized group, but I would also like other clubs, especially our other clubs that deal with other marginalized groups to get behind us and join in on this campaign together so that we can take our school back and make it like a nice place to be. I don’t want anyone to feel unsafe.”