As a new school year begins, parents and students are busy back to school shopping, stocking up on pens, pencils, notebooks, and new clothes to make a good first impression. But schools need to think about first impressions as well, and in an area that may not be the first place you think of: School restrooms!
A recent survey of 9th to 12th graders reveals that unclean school restrooms cause students to have a negative perception of their institution and its leaders. In fact, a full 68% of students say school restrooms that are poorly maintained or unclean show the school doesn’t care about its students, reflects poor school management, and lowers their overall opinion of the school.
Unfortunately for schools trying to make a good impression on the kids that they serve, nearly half of students describe the condition of their school restrooms as poor or fair. The findings are part of the Healthy Hand Washing Survey conducted by Bradley Corporation, which asked students across the country about their school restrooms and hand washing habits.
“The negative impact of poorly maintained school restrooms is clearly significant and spreads beyond the bathroom doors to the entire school,” says Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development for Bradley Corp. “Female students are even more inclined to be negatively influenced by run-down school restrooms.”
If the school bathrooms are bad enough, it may actually keep some kids from using them when they need to go. While most (81%) use their school restroom on a daily basis, 19% claim to never frequent it. They avoid the facilities in part because they’re dirty, smelly, or have broken or old toilets, sinks, and doors.
A Plea For Privacy
Students do have suggestions for school restroom improvements. Their number one request is more privacy. They’d like taller stall doors and want gaps between the stall panels eliminated.
Second on their wish list is cleaner facilities, followed by more air fresheners. Which brings us to this: A major complaint from kids about school restrooms can be pinned on their fellow students. When asked what bothers them the most about school restrooms, foul odors top the list.
If students do encounter an unclean or unpleasant restroom, they usually skip their trip and don’t bother telling anyone. More than half say they leave without using the restroom and 39% try to avoid using that restroom in the future. Unlike adults, whose first course of action is to alert a facility’s management (43%), just 20% of students take action to address the situation by notifying a teacher or school management.
When it comes to students’ hand washing habits, a lack of restroom supplies and time also has a negative impact on students. Only 60% say they always wash their hands before leaving the school restroom. Their reasons for not washing include no soap or paper towels, not enough time between classes, and sinks that weren’t working or were unclean.
And, even though most schools don’t post hand washing reminders, they might consider it: 57% of students say they’d be more likely to wash if there was a sign in the restroom.
Students believe the germiest surfaces in restrooms are toilet flushers, the floor around the toilet, and stall door handles. And they back up their beliefs with actions – 46% operate the toilet flusher with their foot in order reduce their contact with germs and 33% use a paper towel to open the door, with females significantly more likely to use these germ-avoidance strategies.