Concerns over fighting, bullying and vaping prompt removal of several RFA bathroom doors

Published May 9, 2018 at 12:00pm

The entrance doors to boys’ and girls’ bathrooms in several wings at Rome Free Academy have been removed due to an increase in fighting, bullying and vaping by students.

In an email Tuesday to inform RFA parents about the change, Principal Brian LeBaron said “we strongly believe that this will deter students from fighting and vaping as result of our increased accessibility to the bathrooms.”

Vaping involves inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.

The bathroom entrance door removals are in the school’s 1200, 2200, 1300 and 2300 wings, said LeBaron in his email to parents for all RFA grade levels.

RFA’s enrollment at the start of the 2018-19 school year totaled about 1,500 students in grades 9-12.

LeBaron explained that in the affected bathrooms “the doors to the stalls remain intact, and there is no visibility into the areas of the bathrooms of student use due to the 90-degree angles at the entrances.”

He also commented “our goal is and will always be to eliminate all fighting, bullying, and vaping at Rome Free Academy, and the removal of the exterior bathroom doors will make a significant difference in our overall management of these isolated areas.”

When asked about the move, school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake pointed out that “most all of our elementary buildings do not have doors on the exterior to the hallway. Most bathrooms in our buildings do not have a barrier from the hallway into the room.”

Blake said when asked about privacy that “there should be no concern of privacy, as doors remain on individual stalls and the interior of the bathroom is not visible from the hallway.”

Last month, a high school in Maryland drew objections from students and some parents after removing several bathroom doors to curb activities like smoking and vaping, according to numerous news media reports online.

Blake, when asked about the Rome district’s position in light of the Maryland concerns, said he is “just focused on making sure RFA is the safest possible environment for all students
and staff regardless of what other locations may be doing
for the best interest of their
communities.”