Rolling in the Girls’ Room

Yesterday, the following conversation occurred on my personal Facebook page.

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Siobhan: Am I an old fuddy-duddy because I just emailed Security about the two boys and their girlfriend sitting on the counter in the women’s washroom rolling a massive joint?  Am I less of a fuddy-duddy because, after I kicked them out and found them still hovering around the door as I was leaving, I warned them that I was going to call Security so they really didn’t want to go back in there?  I actually hesitated about it, but my rationale, as I phrased it to Security, was, “Please patrol the bathrooms – a lot of teenage girls do not want to walk into the washroom and discover two boys and a pile of weed on the counter.”

J: Kind of?  Oh wait, there were boys in the women’s washroom? That’s different. The joint I’d just let pass, but that intrudes on the comfort of everyone. You made the right call.  That said, were I to catch students rolling a joint in other circumstances, I’d tell them to lose it immediately and let them know it’s their last chance to learn to do that kind of thing where they won’t get caught. It demands a response, but I’d hesitate to bring security into it since it in no way threatens the safety of students, faculty, or employees.

Siobhan: It’s the total lack of common sense that floors me. I mean, half the female teachers on that floor use that washroom, not to mention tons of students who could easily report them. What did they think would happen?  J, fair enough, but it does threaten some students’ SENSE of safety. A lot of girls would feel very uncomfortable walking in on such a scene, and might hesitate to use that washroom if they knew such things were likely to be going on in there. If students know security guards check washrooms, they’re less likely to do stuff in there that puts other students in awkward positions.

J: Sure — I see it as totally a part of teaching to teach kids to watch their asses if they’re going to do something like that. However, I feel like there is too much appeal to top-down authority when it comes to marijuana. I’m not at all trying to argue that drugs or alcohol have any place on campus, but I’m concerned about resorting to a reaction that places students in a position to be punished well outside the realm of what that sort of stupid, clueless behaviour deserves. A stern talking-to and a threat, for sure, but security I’m uneasy about, particularly because it could lead to expulsion (and in some insane cases, criminal charges, which over marijuana constitutes a total abuse of authority to me).   Also, I’d like to state here that I don’t do drugs and find potheads irritating as anything. It’s just the issue of authority over soft-drug use and the execution thereof that leaves me very uneasy.

Siobhan: J, yes, I totally get that, and that’s why I hesitated. The fact is, if two girls had been in there rolling a joint, even as blatantly as these people, I probably would have ignored it, although the best reaction would have been to chew them out for being stupid, as you say. It was the boys just casually hanging out in the girls’ room with their grass hanging in everyone’s faces that made me feel like it was appropriate to contact security – and the concerns you mention that made me warn the kids that security was coming. I’m not sure what I’ll do if it happens again, but I certainly can’t see myself calling the dogs on some kids just for being pothead idiots – it was the total arrogance of it all that made it seem somehow dangerous.

J: Agreed.

P: Nope – doing your job dear. If the rules forbid this, which they do, whether you agree or not is irrelevant…at least in my book it is. I used to tell my students that I didn’t care much for certain rules but because they were there, I would respect them, and that I expected the same from them…I would have emailed security too!

J: P, with all due respect, I must disagree strongly. CEGEP, in my opinion, is not a place for teaching blind obedience to the rules, particularly rules one personally disagrees with. If a student feels the anti-drug, anti-alcohol rules are unjust, I’d prefer to see them work through the reason for those rules’ existence and attempt to find the means to challenge them then to have them obey for no reason other than the rules’ authority.  This has made my job difficult with students at times, since I’ve never been able to tell students, “Do it because I say you have to,” but I feel that it provides them a more humane education and presents them with more challenging ideas at an instance that may be the last chance they have to be challenged like that.  (I also think the vast majority of students would conclude that the rules against drugs and alcohol on campus are for everyone’s benefit and thus not be able to excuse their own flouting of those rules.)

M: Oh dear, I feel compelled to wade into this now. As a CEGEP teacher and a parent of a CEGEP student, I think you absolutely did the right thing, Siobhan. As for J, your approach is refreshing but very hard to manage. If the students in question were in one of Siobhan’s classes, she could have used the situation as a teaching moment, I suppose, and have a discussion about developing a critical approach to following rules. As they were just some random students, I think Siobhan’s approach was right on.  I sometimes compare school to a workplace with my students. Behave at school as you would in a work situation. Unless they are training to be jazz musicians or artists or beat poets, most students get the message. (I just thought of the poor teacher who will have stoned students on her class later that day…)

K: Siobhan, I would have done the same as you (including warning them about security). If they continued their activities after such a warning, it seems to me they are basically asking to be caught. On the other hand, I would probably make an issue out of students smoking in a bathroom period. Some people have asthma, others prefer not to have to inhale second-hand smoke, whether it is tobacco or pot. That rule has been put into place to protect others, and so should be enforced.

Siobhan: K, they weren’t smoking, just rolling – if they were planning to smoke there, then yes, I agree, they would have deserved absolutely anything that came down on them!

B: I think you can question the reason for a rules existence and, at the same time, respect other people’s wish to pee in peace.

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What are your thoughts on this?  What would you do if you were a college teacher and came across such a scene in a bathroom?  Would you handle it differently than I did?

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10 responses

  1. You did absolutely the right thing. You got the clueless ones out of the bathroom and aware that what they were doing was stupid and you alerted the authorities–because face it, if you had not contacted security and someone had discovered that you were aware of what was going on in that bathroom, you would probably be in trouble. A public restroom isn’t a place for illegal drugs (no matter how innocuous they may be), and frankly, when males go into a female bathroom, they risk sexual harrassment charges.

    • TW: the fact that I could get into trouble for not reporting didn’t occur to me. You’re probably right about that. I was more concerned about a general perception from the students – “Teachers in this school don’t even care if you roll pot in the bathroom” – which would do nothing to improve the already checkered reputation of our college.

  2. As a teacher, our response to any violation involving drugs, violence, or harassment can put our career on the line. Because of that, I follow school policy to the letter, even though I may disagree with the rules–as I see it, if a rule is too harsh, then that’s grounds for trying to change it but not grounds to ignore it.

    If you have the leeway, I agree that the best response here is essentially just scare tactics and a warning–assuming they take it seriously. The part about them hovering by the door afterward is what really gets me…that’s the “intervention has failed” message, and I would have called the campus police at that point as well.

    • Interesting, Asur – you’re the second to mention that ignoring the situation might have had repercussions for me, and it really hadn’t occurred to me. Maybe that’s because, had I ignored the incident and not told anyone, it wasn’t likely anyone would find out – they were not students of mine – and as a college teacher with tenure, I basically would have to kill or molest a student to get fired. I like your assessment that the fact that they were hovering meant “intervention had failed” – I didn’t put that together consciously, but I suspect that’s why I felt compelled to contact Security.

      • You would have to kill or molest a student ON CAMPUS, with witnesses!!! Gotta love our union!

  3. Interesting comments….and I agree with the fact that indeed, if a teacher ignores it, HE/SHE could get in trouble should something dramatic happen (i.e. The students roll the joints in the bathroom, then smoke them. One of them has a reaction to it and has a seizure, or dies….) I know this might seem far-fetched to some, but honestly, you never know. Imagine if something like that did happen and the parents BLAMED YOU!? Wouldn’t even want to think of that…

    Looking forward to reading more comments…

    • Gen X:
      A few years ago in an MEd course, we were given a scenario to discuss: a student comes to your class obviously drunk, and disruptive. What do you do? One group said that just kicking him out of class was irresponsible, as he might get into his car and drive home drunk. I and some of the others disagreed with this logic; after all, we could kick any student out of class for any reason and he could get angry and go punch someone in the head; would we be responsible for that? Nevertheless, it was an interesting discussion, and once again brought home the fact that our actions as teachers have far-reaching results…

  4. “CGEP is not a place for teaching blind obedience to the rules . . . ”
    Who’s talking about blind obedience to the rules? This is a law we’re talking about, imposed by the duly elected representatives of the people in a democracy. Not only that, the location of the “rule violation” (i.e. law breaking) is a taxpayer-supported institution. Now, the law may be ill-advised; I’m not venturing an opinion about that. But until it’s changed, it needs to be enforced and especially in a publicly-funded institutions (which almost all institutions of higher education are, one way or another). We have enough problems with young people (and older people) deciding that the “rules” only apply to them if they feel like it.

  5. I wouldn’t worry about ruining their education, or putting a black mark on their record, because if the boys are rolling joints in the girls’ room they obviously have a different agenda and don’t give a hoot about learning. It you report them it might, just maybe, wake them up. Otherwise they are taking up valuable seat space to no real purpose.

  6. You did the right thing and it might make the more careful in the future. Whatever you opinions on the law, their behaviour was stupid and you might have saved them from a much worse situation in the future.

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