Students at a Brighton school have to show ID to use the bathroom, some want to change that

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A sign for a newly-constructed gender neutral bathroom is seen at Shawnee Mission East High School, Friday, June 16, 2023, in Prairie Village, Kan.

Typically, when you’re in a high school class and have to go to the bathroom, you get a slip of paper from the teacher – like a hall pass – and off you go.

At Eagle Ridge Academy, a charter school in Brighton, things are a little different.

You have to scan your student ID card. And if you forget your ID at home, you don’t go to the bathroom or you go without it and then have to clean the school on Friday afternoon, according to one student who started a petition opposing the system.

Ailyn Torres, who turns 16 on Thursday, said the new policy has students so riled her petition has gathered almost 300 signatures. The school has 550 students, in grades 9-12.

“It makes me feel like I'm controlled, like everything I do at school is being monitored and I just can't really be my own person,” said Torres.

Eagle Ridge Academy students have always had to carry IDs.

Four years ago, the school implemented the “5 Star Student System,” which tracks students' involvement in activities, tutoring, attendance, lunch, and when they leave campus. The school said the system cut back loitering in the bathrooms and improved safety. It also allows students to be rewarded for positive behaviors.

This semester, the school added the ID policy for bathroom use.

You don't need your ID to use the bathroom during the passing period. But as the hallways fill, bathrooms can become crowded. And once you’re in class and need to use the bathroom, you must walk up to a scanner, and scan the barcode on your ID when leaving and returning to class.

“Going to IDs tremendously reduced the number of students loitering in restrooms, increased responsible and appropriate restroom use, increased the speed of the lunch line, and improved the school’s ability to provide a safe atmosphere for all students,” said Principal Scott Richardson in an email.

Richardson said the IDs enable the school to know exactly who is out of the classroom or building, which is important during emergencies.

But students see the consequence for forgetting their ID to use the bathroom as a punishment

Torres said students have five minutes to use the bathroom. If you exceed five minutes, a dean comes looking for you or calls up your teacher to ask your whereabouts. If you forget your ID and need to use the bathroom, you’re assigned “Friday school.” Torres said that means cleaning the school after classes end on Friday until 6 p.m.

The school grants one free ID replacement. After that, it costs $5 to replace and a Friday school is assigned.

Ailyn Torres, a sophomore at Eagle Ridge Academy in Brighton, poses for a photo at her home on March 10, 2024. She launched a petition opposing a school requirement to show ID to use the school bathroom while in class.

Torres said she understands that the school is trying to keep students safe. But knowing it wasn’t just her who was upset about the policy made her start the petition for her classmates.

“They were really furious about this,” she said. “They were mad. Especially since not only do you have to have your ID to use the bathroom but they're starting to give Friday school if you don't have your ID for lunch as well.”

Richardson refers to Friday school as a “restorative practice of community service,” which can include anything from helping the athletics and activities department set up for events to helping the facilities staff organize, clean, and maintain all shared student spaces.

He wrote that it’s an opportunity to teach students responsible behaviors and create stronger relationships with staff outside the classroom setting.

“Our goal in this particular instance is for students to understand both personal and community responsibility,” he said.

School bathroom policies became more urgent after a TikTok trend challenging kids to vandalize school bathrooms

Eagle Ridge Academy’s policy is more stringent than traditional middle and high schools in the rest of the school district. But 27J officials implemented a hall policy that some schools put into place last year and some this year.

Students can request a bathroom break during class on their school Chromebooks by getting approved for an electronic hall pass. They don’t need a physical pass.

“And that lets them know if the restroom is available or if it's full,” said 27J spokesperson Janelle Asmus.  “If it's available, they can just get up and go to the restroom. And then when they get back, they sign back on their computer.”

Students don’t have to disrupt class.

Asmus said if students don’t have a Chromebook with them, they aren’t denied the bathroom. Teachers can override the system for emergencies or use the old paper system.

The change was prompted by the TikTok challenge a few years ago that led to vandalism in some bathrooms. Students were also congregating there. An e-hall pass was the solution to deter vaping, vandalism, and overcrowding.

“We are always looking for ways to keep our schools safe,” said Asmus. “How can we make them operate more efficiently and effectively? By and large, the system is working as intended and we're really pleased with it.”

Electronic hall passes are growing in popularity across the country but even they have generated mixed reactions from students, parents, and teachers.  

The Denver, Jefferson County, Aurora, Douglas County, Cherry Creek, and Adams 12 Five Star districts don’t require students to use or show ID to use the bathroom.   

Back at Eagle Ridge, Torres said she doesn’t like feeling afraid of being 'punished’ for forgetting her ID  

She said it’s unfair to students who are really trying to follow the rules but just need to use the bathroom. She said girls get their periods unexpectedly or have a health issue or emergency.

“We can’t always wait because we don’t have our IDs,” she said.“We're young adults and we're still getting the hang of responsibilities.”

School officials said that teachers can override policies if there is an emergency. And they argue that the bathroom pass policy has resulted in less loitering and vandalism, which has increased student’s ability to use bathrooms.

The petition asks for the school to hold accountable the few students who misuse bathroom privileges.

“I'm trying to understand their side too but make them hear me out too and other students because I know other students are afraid of speaking up,” said Torres.

Richardson wrote that he is proud of students exercising their rights by signing the petition about something they disagree with. At the same time, he has to make policies to promote the safety of the whole school.

“While I understand students may be frustrated, IDs are a part of adult life, and we are teaching them to be responsible citizens.”