School pupils’ right to leave a classroom to use the toilet has hit the headlines recently. In one case, a girl was left to bleed through her clothes after being refused permission to go to the toilet while she was menstruating. Rights Info reports
Policies vary with some mainstream schools allowing access to toilets during set break times unless a medical certificate is provided, other schools issue toilet passes which can require a medical certificate, while others leave it to the individual teacher’s discretion.
Schools have argued some pupils were going to the toilet too frequently as an avoidance or disruption tactic, affecting not only their own education but that of their fellow pupils.
The law permits schools to take action to minimise disruption to teaching, and guidance issued by the government in 2011 stated that teachers can go so far as to use reasonable force in some situations. This must, however, be balanced with the rights of school children.
Is it Unlawful and Does it Breach Human Rights?
Article 28, governing the provision of education, specifically states that “parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.”
Blanket Policies Could Leave Schools Open to Litigation
A blanket disciplinary policy of only allowing toilet access at set times or allowing teachers, carte blanche, to refuse toilet access cannot be said to be in the best interests of the child.
There is potential for long term damage to the bladder as well as risk of anxieties of trying to either conform to the policy, or having to inform the school of any continence problems.
It is also directly at odds with the government’s advice to schools on safeguarding issues, which states that safeguarding children’s welfare includes preventing impairment of children’s health or development.
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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