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The Paso Robles school district is locking bathrooms during class to prevent student vaping

Posted at 6:49 PM, Nov 08, 2019

When class is in session, almost all restrooms at Paso Robles High School are closed.

This comes after vandalism, false fire alarms, and vaping were all taking place in those areas during class time.

"Well, my daughter came home from high school, there were several times where that she came home and she was rushing to get into the bathroom and I had just commented to her, why don't you just do that at school? Didn't you go at school? And she told me they had the bathrooms locked," said Tess Serna Ramirez, parent of former Paso Robles High School student.

Serna Ramirez's daughter graduated from Paso Robles High School two years ago, but she remembers finding an open bathroom was at times a struggle for her daughter.

In the past, the school says they’ve had to close restrooms that had been vandalized and were unsafe.

"Students were struggling to find what restrooms were open at a given time and that's because we have a limited number of safety staff to supervise the number of restrooms," said Anthony Overton, Paso Robles High School principal.

This school year, all restrooms are open to students during break, passing periods, and lunch.

However, when class starts, only two bathrooms are left unlocked.

"It's having a presence outside of restrooms, it's ensuring that large groups of students aren't entering the restrooms at the same time, it's sweeping the restroom after student use to make sure inappropriate things aren't left behind, and making sure we aren't having vandalism or unclean environments for our students," Overton said.

Serna Ramirez says parents she knows have mixed feelings about the locked bathrooms.

Paso Robles Unified School District Superintendent Curt Dubost thinks despite some opposition, the move is a step in the right direction.

"Some still think it's unnecessary and an inconvenience to their kids and we just have to tell them that based on what we're seeing, that minor inconvenience is worth the outcome that we're after," Dubost said.

Dubost and Overton say locking restrooms during class time is just a temporary solution.

The school district was recently awarded a $366,215 grant from the California Department of Justice to tackle vaping and e-cigarette use, which will be directly used to solve the restroom issue.

Dubost says the grant will be used to add vaping sensors in restrooms, security cameras throughout campus, and an additional safety officer with the Paso Robles Police Department.

It's all in an effort to combat vaping among their students.

Overton says since Paso Robles High School has closed all but two of their bathrooms during class time, he's seen a complete reduction of vandalism and fire alarms set off from student vaping.