During the school day on Monday, Feb. 10, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students were shocked when MSD Principal Michelle Kefford delivered an announcement over the school-wide intercom during third period, which alerted students to a growing problem here at MSD. This important message shed a light on the schoolwide problem of students flushing objects down toilets, some of which were found to be illegal.
At MSD, a majority of the restrooms are interconnected, meaning that whatever occurs in one restroom may affect those next to, above or below it. When the first-floor male restroom, across from the cafeteria, was disrupted on Monday, the backup spread to the female restroom across from it. This eventually ended up reaching the plumbing in the restroom on the second level, located across from the media center.
The objects that caused the backups included empty cannabis cartridges as well as disposable vapes. With the rise of the deadly e-cigarette, students are at an increased risk for health issues.
According to a 2019 National Youth Tobacco survey, “Over 5 million youth are using e-cigarettes” and “Nearly 1 million used the product daily.” Findings from JAMA Network have concluded that “In 2019, the prevalence of self-reported e-cigarette use was high among high school and middle school students, with many current e-cigarette users reporting frequent use and most of the exclusive e-cigarette users reporting use of flavored e-cigarettes.”
“It’s a safety hazard number one, that creates a problem with us having to close down bathrooms because they’re not sanitary,” Kefford said. “And then, in turn, reduces student access to bathrooms and also is a concern for safety reasons. [In case] there’s an emergency, you can run into a bathroom if you need to and hide and [if] we have limited access to bathrooms, that’s a huge problem.”
To encourage students to help the administration in capturing the culprits, a reward system has been established. The institution of the “call-out” method is meant to anonymously help identify guilty students with information other students willingly admit. Those who come forward with any valuable information can end up walking away with a free homecoming/prom ticket or a free parking pass for either the senior or junior lot in the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
“It might seem nice to be able to get a free ticket to the dances or even a free parking spot, but snitching on kids doesn’t seem like the best idea,” sophomore Sidney Jenner said. “It’s just so stupid of kids to keep vaping in the bathrooms even after they made the announcement.”
Due to the shut down of several MSD restrooms, students have begun to experience the consequences of their peers’ actions. During both lunches and in between classes, the restrooms that remain intact now have longer lines than before. In addition to longer wait times, students will also have to travel farther in order to find a functioning restroom during their class periods.
The issue of students flushing indispensable items down the toilet has led to extra expenses and fees the school now has to tend to. The expenses of the bathroom meddling have not yet been determined by the Broward County District. One way to cover the costs would be restitution, which is when the student at fault has to pay the school back the price of the damage.
“[MSD] is essentially a second home; this is where we spend the majority of our time and everybody has to be respectful of everybody else [because you] wouldn’t do that at home and there’s no way we’re going to tolerate it here,” Kefford said. “It’s very upsetting that students do it intentionally and are careless. It’s disappointing, disheartening, and I’m not going to have one student ruin it for other students. We will find out who [those students] are, and make sure that they receive the consequences.”
The disciplinary action taken will vary from student to student, depending on how much damage their actions caused. The damage caused by the number of illegal objects flushed is enough to result in an arrestable offense. While arrest is the most severe outcome, students also risk being suspended or expelled for vandalism and disruption of school activity.
“I think having an incentive for reporting kids is a good idea, in theory,” junior Madeleine Dwyer said. “The only thing is, I don’t think a lot of kids will end up turning in their friends.”
The purpose of the brief announcement was to alert students to the recurring problem. The administration requires students’ help to let them know when they see something suspicious and report it, so the faculty can take appropriate action to settle the dispute. Anybody with valuable information is encouraged to visit the office to resolve and prevent the flooding problem immediately.
“It is incumbent upon all of us to take responsibility for our school because it’s a minority. It’s a handful of students causing these issues and when the entire student body here says ‘You know, this is enough. I don’t want the bathrooms flooded anymore, I don’t want to walk into a bathroom and see people vaping anymore,’ when everybody else has had enough. That’s where we can all work together to make it stop,” Assistant Principal Daniel Most said.
Besides the obvious problem of the back ups in the restroom systems at MSD, false fire alarms have been triggered because of multiple instances of students vaping in the bathrooms. Shortly after Kefford’s announcement on Monday, the fire alarm was triggered by students vaping in the bathroom.
“There have actually been two alarms so far this month [that have been set off]. We go ahead and we do everything we can to try to determine who was responsible for setting the alarm off,” Most said. “I think one of the most important things is for people to understand that there are serious consequences for setting off the fire alarm; [which] is a major disruption of campus according to our discipline matrix which comes with a nine-day suspension from school.”
MSD is increasing visibility and surveillance around the restrooms. They are keeping a close eye on who is utilizing the restrooms and monitoring that particular area for any suspicious or questionable activity.
“Our students deserve that and we want to make sure we’ll do whatever we need to do on our end administratively to make sure that we have this facility in pristine condition for our kids. If somebody is doing something to contradict that, they need to be consequenced,” Kefford said. “Please come forward because our school needs to be treated with respect.”
As of now, a few students who have been found to be part of the issue have been identified. Much of the MSD community, especially Kefford, has enforced a major focus on preventing complications such as this one from occurring in the future. Preventative measures, such as additional security and rewards will be applied and in effect until the bathroom flooding affair comes to a resolution.