What has started out as a trickle of student dissent turned into a full stream of protest on Thursday as youth at a New Brunswick school protested a policy that won’t let them go when they need to.
More than 100 students at J.M.A. High School and Salisbury Middle School in Salisbury, N.B., walked out of class on Thursday to voice concerns over a new bathroom policy, which restricts students to having an escort to the washroom during class times or using the bathroom when class is not in session.
“I think it’s everyone’s right to be able to use the washroom. I don’t think we need to be chaperoned to do so,” said Chris Fawcett, a student at J.M.A. Armstrong High School. “They lead you to the bathroom, they wait for you outside, then they lead you back to class.”
“It’s kind of strange when you’re using the bathroom and a teacher or a principal is standing outside telling you to hurry up,” another student said.
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An email obtained by Global News and distributed to parents at both schools — which are housed in the same complex — says the decision was made in response to vaping in the schools’ bathrooms.
“In schools, vaping is regarded as smoking. In addition, there have been acts of vandalism in our washrooms. These are happening mainly in the male washrooms,” wrote Tammy Constantine, principal for both schools, in the email.
“Consequently, students will be required to go to the washrooms during non-instructional times.”
During the protest, one student brandished a sign with the phrase, “let us pee in peace.” Others had copies of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom on their phones, saying the policy contravened their rights.
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A request for comment with J.M.A. High School and Salisbury Middle School was directed to the Anglophone East School District.
Gregg Ingersoll, the superintendent of the district, said that the email was sent at the principal’s discretion, but that he is not aware of any policy that would require students to be escorted to the washroom.
He added that students and teachers need to work together in order to find a solution.
“Really the only way we’re going to find a solution is working with the students,” said Ingersoll.
“We can impose hard rules on them if we want, but that’s only going to work for so long. We need them to work with us.”
In an additional email sent to parents and guardians late in the day Thursday, Constantine noted students involved in the walkout will face consequences, while those taking part in “unusual things” will face disciplinary action.
“High school students who chose to leave school today without permission during period 2 will no longer be able to receive their exemption,” the notice said. “There were also some unusual things that occurred today and those students will be facing disciplinary action. Students who chose not to return to school this afternoon will also be facing consequences.”
The email says students are permitted, if needed, to use the washroom during class time. It didn’t say whether an escort or communication with administration was required.
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