Officials from the Houston Independent School District (HISD) have recently enforced a new rule governing student restroom use during class time. Part of Superintendent Mike Miles’s New Education System, this rule restricts the frequency with which students can access the restroom during instructional periods. The New Education System, characterized as a “wholesale systematic reform” model, previously removed numerous librarians from the district over the summer. Instead, it introduced a staffing model reminiscent of a “hospital” setup, involving an apprenticeship and coach in each classroom, with the primary focus on refining a teacher’s responsibilities solely to teaching.
Superintendent Mike Miles initiated this model upon his appointment to lead the state’s intervention in district operations, and it has since sparked resistance and discontent among Houston’s teachers, students, and parents. The recent implementation of the restrictive restroom policy has become a focal point of criticism.
According to the Houston Chronicle, students are now discouraged from using the restroom during instructional time. The policy mandates restroom use only during passing periods between classes, explicitly prohibiting it during the first and last 15 minutes of a class.
Sharpstown High School recently informed its teachers that restrooms are off-limits during instruction, a move purportedly aimed at preventing students from wandering the hallways. In response, the Houston Federation of Teachers (HFT), the district’s largest teacher union, filed a grievance last week.
The HFT expressed concerns about compromising students’ safety, professional ethics, and personal livelihoods, asserting that teachers are being directed to ignore ethical obligations. In a statement obtained by the Houston Press, the HFT declared its refusal to partake in enforcing the policy, describing it as a directive that compels cruelty towards students to absolve administration of campus discipline responsibilities.
Amid the ongoing legal dispute, the HFT pressed the district to report Sharpstown Principal Thomas J. Cotter to Family Protective Services and to eliminate all communication directing teachers on the controversial policy. HISD officials declined to comment on pending legal matters but emphasized their commitment to preparing students for the “world and workplace of Destination 2035.”
While the legal battle unfolds, students are expressing opposition to the restroom restrictions. Reports highlight instances of uneven enforcement of restroom passes, with some students finding the implemented cone policy unsanitary. Additionally, a student recounted an incident where a friend was denied restroom access, leading to a distressing situation. The controversy over the new restroom rules continues to unfold in the Houston Independent School District.