The student news site of Potomac Falls High School

The Roar

The student news site of Potomac Falls High School

The Roar

The student news site of Potomac Falls High School

The Roar

“Hey losers, stop vaping in the bathrooms. I have to pee.”

Photo by: Anita U
The bathrooms at PFHS prior to their temporary closing on Nov. 27.

There is a whole new bathroom issue at Potomac Falls. While Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) has been embroiled in bathroom use controversy, shutting down the use of certain bathrooms all together is a problem unique to PFHS.

On Nov. 27, an email was sent out to all staff stating “Starting today the History Hall, English Hall, and the CTE Hall restrooms will be locked until further notice. Students may use the Main Hall or World Languages Hall restrooms.”

This meant that only one set of bathrooms was open on each floor of the school. Two days later, the World Language restrooms were temporarily closed, via an email sent to staff on Nov. 29, leaving only one set of bathrooms open for students to use.

Students who had a class downstairs then had approximately a five to eight minute round trip commute to use the main hallway restrooms. In each of the main hall restrooms, there are 20 stalls, two of which don’t lock properly in the women’s restroom. This leaves fewer than 40 open stalls for the 1,703 students of PFHS. 

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With student safety being among the school’s top priorities, their reasoning for closing all but one set of bathrooms is “ an uptick in vaping/drug use” according to principal Brandon Wolfe. He explained in an email to staff that “locking these bathrooms down allows us to more effectively monitor the bathrooms being used.”

While administrators are citing an “uptick” in vaping and drug use, for some students, the issue has been so consistent, it is practically an expectation. At what point did smelling a waft of weed walking to your science classroom become normal? Students have become conditioned to the smell and the act of smoking weed in the bathroom stalls. 

Maybe in comparison, the issues plaguing PFHS are not as bad as those county-wide. On Nov. 1, new LCPS superintendent Aaron Spence “issued a division-wide statement saying there had been 10 suspected overdoses at six of the division’s 18 high schools since the 2023-24 school year began in August. Besides Park View, the other schools were Briar Woods, Broad Run, Dominion, Loudoun County, and Tuscarora according to the Loudoun Times Mirror. The location of these overdoses, whether or not any of them occurred in student bathrooms or if the drugs were taken in bathrooms, is not addressed, but it does speak to the fact that despite the county’s affluence, its students are not immune to the opioid epidemic.

In the wake of these overdoses, parents and community members were quick to look for someone to blame, and Spence found himself under fire as the county was criticized for its response, despite school personnel administering life-saving measures including CPR in two of the four on-campus overdoses and NARCAN in three of the four. Gov. Glenn Younkin issued an executive order requiring Virginia schools to notify all parents, county-wide, within 24 hours of a suspected overdose at any LCPS school, as reported by USA Today.

While on its surface, the executive order is in place to protect students, the county’s lax approach to drug infractions could be the root of its rise in drug-use problems. The county policy for students caught with a vape or drugs is four days of in-school restriction (ISR) on the first offense. The second offense is a mere seven days of ISR. A student could be caught in school with an illegal substance, including fentanyl, and not serve a single day of out-of-school suspension. 

While there is a general sense of irritation among students over the closures, when examining the intention behind their decision coupled with the perception, or reality, of a growing drug problem in the county, how can school administrators win? Do they continue to watch hours of security footage every time that a smell is reported coming from one of the restrooms only to see up to 45 kids walking in and out within the time frame? According to Wolfe, sometimes more than a dozen students have to be called in and questioned after a smell is reported. “We call down five to 10 kids and get one vape but unfairly searched nine other kids,” he explained. “Students hide vapes in places we can’t search or flush them and destroy the plumbing.”

So, please. Do our bladders a favor. Do your cardiovascular system a favor. Do all of us a favor. Quit vaping in the bathroom, so the rest of us can just go pee.