By Tom Keating
Some bloggers write about what has happened; this post is about what is going to take place on March 20th, 22nd, and 27th at a middle school of 700 students in grades 6-8 in Decatur, Georgia, my home town.
I am speaking with five classes of seventh graders on Tuesday and another five on Thursday, and we are planning for an outside speaker from the Centers for Disease Control on the last Tuesday in the month.
The topics: sanitation, disease, epidemiology, and wellness as they relate to restrooms in that school, our country, and in both more or less developed nations.
I plan to tell stories, raise questions, share facts, and challenge established norms, habits, and beliefs.
Class One. Some years ago I received an email describing the restrooms at an Arkansas middle school. “Our restrooms don’t have enough tissue, no towels, and most of all no soap . . . Our restroom stalls are so hideous that they are leaning over. . . Our restrooms make me ashamed . . . The restroom toilet seats are filthy, have scratches of paint coming off, and are broken.”
Ask me sometime what we did in that West Helena school.
Class Two. Schools in Decatur and DeKalb or Clayton County Georgia have histories of no doors, no dividers, and no sanitary product dispensers. And how are they now?
Class Three. Schools in one district in Delaware had graffiti, broken stalls, and rusted partitions. The principal and custodian, as well as district staff began to make some changes. How long does it take to make changes? Do those changes last? What happens when your kid leaves his grade or school. Do you as a concerned parent keep working on the issues at that school or move on?
Class Four. Diarrhea from unclean water and poor sanitation kills a child every 15 seconds according to many authorities including the Children’s Hunger Relief Fund literature quoting UNICEF’s Executive Director. If that is true, does the fact that an entire class of 28 seventh graders dies in seven minutes move a 12 year old, his parents, or her teachers and administrators to do anything about school restrooms or dying children?
Class Five. What are middle school students in Berlin, or New Delhi, or Addis Ababa doing about sanitation issues? How does wellness narrowly defined only as eating better and exercising more contribute to neglect about proper sanitation in schools in more and less developed countries?
Does wellness without a third “E,” – that is, proper Elimination – fall way short of helping students have healthy lives and successful academic experiences?
Toiletry Question: A middle school with grades six, seven, and eight has 700 students. Each youngster uses the restroom once and washes his or her hands once during the instructional day. Each child takes the recommended time of 20 seconds to wash his or her hands. How many hours does the student body spend in hand washing?
Toiletry Answer: 700 kids times 20 seconds equals 14,000 seconds, divided by 60, equals 233.33 minutes divided by 60, equals 3.8 hours of a six hour day.
Maybe school personnel are glad approximately 40/100 middle and high school students avoid the restrooms each day.
Please share any suggestions, comments, or criticism of the proposed five classes, and submit any Toilet Trivia. I’ll let you know how the classes go next month.
Dr. Tom Keating