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The student restrooms at Live Oak High School have become a den of vaping, smoking and other unauthorized activities that have rendered some classmates afraid or even unable to enter the facilities due to the crowds congregating inside, according to some of their parents. 

School staff and Morgan Hill Unified School District officials recently addressed the long-simmering issue publicly, after numerous parents and other community members have been raising their concerns with school staff and at recent board of education meetings. District officials say the school has become more attentive in monitoring the use of Live Oak’s restrooms and ensuring they are used appropriately—including with the recent hiring of a restroom monitor on campus; increased parent and student outreach efforts; enhanced efforts by custodial staff to “check in” on the restrooms for cleanliness and supplies; and the continued use of digital hall passes for students. 

But some school officials, and the concerned parents, think more can be done to improve safety for all students on campus. 

“Numerous students are afraid to use the bathrooms at school due to the drugs and other illegal activity going on,” LOHS parent Victoria Enos said in a recent email to the Morgan Hill Times. “Students have asked to use restrooms in the administration building and have been denied.”

LOHS Principal Tanya Calabretta, in a statement, said school staff have implemented campus protocols that have “swiftly mitigated” situations where students have gathered in the restrooms. Calabretta added that her office is open to hearing from parents regarding complaints about student health and safety. 

“As is my practice, I have made myself available to the parents who have shown concern on this topic and will continue to be available for further discussion,” Calabretta said. “It is my goal to ensure that every member of our school community feels heard and supported.”

Many of the concerned parents in recent weeks joined a thread on the NextDoor social media site to raise awareness of the issues within the school’s restrooms. The thread has produced more than 400 comments. Other parents have contacted this newspaper. 

The parents say the restrooms, when open, are almost always filled with students breaking school rules or engaging in illegal activity. Some have complained that their children have been denied the use of front office restrooms to avoid the bad elements, and that the student restrooms are locked at times during the school day. 

Parents have also said they have raised these concerns to LOHS and district staff numerous times—via email, phone calls and in-person “coffee chats” with MHUSD officials. But these contacts are “flat out ignored and conditions are never improved,” Enos said. 

Morgan Hill resident and LOHS parent Monica Rios wrote, in a letter to the editor in this week’s Times, that teens have been complaining about the congregated unauthorized use of the school’s restrooms for two years. “The bathrooms appear to have become a place to smoke marijuana and vape, making that area of the school very unsafe for all minors that want to keep themselves away from the use of drugs. Many students avoid going to the bathroom at all,” Rios wrote.

Rios said this week that the situation has not seemingly improved since she wrote the letter earlier this month. 

At the March 21 MHUSD Board of Education meeting, trustees heard from numerous parents who lined up during public comment to voice their worries about the restrooms, and other issues at LOHS. One parent said the line for the girls’ restroom backs up quickly while students occupy the stalls to smoke cigarettes and vaping devices. 

More parents spoke about the ongoing concerns at the April 4 MHUSD board meeting, and suggested the restrooms have not improved since the previous meeting.

Also at the April 4 meeting, MHUSD Assistant Superintendent Pilar Vazquez-Vialva gave a presentation about measures the school and district have taken at LOHS. 

These include MHUSD leadership authorizing and hiring in late March a restroom monitor for LOHS, with more such positions forthcoming; the implementation in January of a digital hall pass system for LOHS students; at least seven school staff people regularly monitoring the restrooms; and open meetings scheduled with school staff to gather parent input, Vazquez-Vialva said. 

The school’s four main student restrooms also include Flysense devices that detect vaping and other particulates, according to district staff. The Morgan Hill Police Department’s School Resource Officer also periodically sweeps the student restrooms. 

Calabretta, in her statement, noted that the student restrooms are only locked during the times they are scheduled to be locked for maintenance, cleaning and restocking supplies. “This access includes the ten-minute period at the start of class when students will be granted a pass by their teacher and access to the restroom by a campus supervisor if necessary,” Calabretta said. 

District staff also noted that the student restroom concerns are not isolated to Live Oak. Calabretta said students gather in campus restrooms “in schools across the nation.” Vazquez-Vialva added that teen vaping is a nationwide concern. 

“We need to continue educating our students about the dangers of inhaling anything,” Vazquez-Vialva said at the April 4 board meeting. 

MHUSD Trustee Pamela Gardiner said district staff’s response April 4 didn’t go far enough. Gardiner said the staff presentation was “disappointing and counterproductive.”

“Instead of validating parental concerns it served to further demoralize, disenfranchise and frustrate our parent community,” Gardiner said. “All students attending Live Oak should be assured the opportunity of a positive school experience; they deserve effective admin leadership at the site level.”

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

23 COMMENTS

  1. While it is true this is going on in all High Schools, parents need and must be realistic. You don’t want your high schooler going to a prison of sorts to get an education. The students who are smoking and doing drugs are the issue. THEY have parents. Students who are caught smoking or doing drugs should be expelled if there are more than 2 instances. But beyond all the efforts of the Live Oak High School administration, which are much more than my local high school does, what more do the parents want? To allow THEIR child to use the teacher and administrator restrooms? No, I don’t think so. They are separate for a reason. And people being people, it would be a short matter of time before one of the violators are in that restroom as well. So if the complaining parents have solutions that work, I’m sure the principal would be happy to hear. But if all they are going to do is complain and stomp their feet, nothing will improve. You must deal directly with offending students and their parents. Weed (no pun intended) them out.

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  2. There is also an issue with students throwing Milk and now firecrackers at lunch. The student/s that have been involved seem to get no punishment and staff seem to turn an eye when these things are happening. No School is perfect but when students see others doing this and campus supervisors/teachers/administration do not even try to mitigate the situation it seems that NO ONE CARES.

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    • I subbed 6th grade at a MH middle, called for campus supervisor due to outrageous student behavior. (running around room dangling chrome books, crawling on the floor, throwing water bottles up to the ceiling, on their phones, loud talking and laughing, no work being done) Was told this is pretty much how they are with reg teacher too and “you should see the 8th grade.”

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  3. There must be punishment for the principal and teachers. Until this is not a problem, they must share their bathrooms with the students. Or, hire monitors, that would quickly handle the probelm. Please dont tell me there is no money. We are raising chriminals, They are braking the Law.. And, the chriminals know that there is no discipline. FIX IT OR CLOSE THE SCHOOL

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    • Dear Mr. King,

      At Live Oak, we have monitors. The law disallows the monitors from staying in the bathroom and/or recording.

      From, Live Oak Attendee

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    • What is wrong with your spelling, you misspelled things pretty bad that your message cannot even be understood.

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  4. The issues discussed here are overblown, and Gardiner never even came on campus when the board visited, so she is hardly a credible source. Michael Moore should investigate this a bit more carefully, as this makes his credibility appear weak.

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  5. The easiest way to resolve this is to have a parent teacher, principal, and superintendent conference with the student. If the behavior is occurred by the student again, then suspension or independent studies at home until. If they child wants to come back, then they must have an agreement signed by their parent that they will not do that behavior again, and if they do, then they will be on independent home studies for the rest of the year. There is no space for drugs on our schools. We have to keep our kids safe and sometimes it requires taking harsher steps.

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    • Many parents allow their kids to do drugs and some support them.

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  6. Can someone gift me a fortnite skin, my Fortnite username is Xboomcho

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  7. I am offical Cristiano Ronaldo, please give ME penalty, not Leo Messi

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