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.”