Auckland, Green Bay High School students outraged at glass bathroom doors, phone ban

Students at an Auckland high school are outraged at new measures designed to curb vaping and phone use, which include glass doors on the student bathrooms.  

A pair of students from Green Bay High School, who say they "aim to provide a voice to all students," have started an Instagram page called gbhs_official to make their voice heard, "come hell or high water".  

One key issue the students have taken issue with is glass doors in newly refurbished student bathrooms. 

The entrance door to the bathrooms is glass and fully see-through and there is a new window on the other side of the bathroom which means the bathroom's main area can be viewed from outside.   

Photos shared on the student's Instagram page show cubicles without doors, however, these doors will be installed eventually before renovations are complete and the bathrooms are back in use.   

In a statement on the Green Bay High School website, the school said "older-style toilet blocks often become a place where students gather to socialise, and sometimes to vape or to vandalise the premises".

They hope that the new designs will curb this behaviour.   

They make clear that they have followed Ministry of Education guidelines when designing the bathrooms.   

As well as increased visibility into the bathrooms, the school is installing vape detection alarms and a camera monitoring the communal and handwashing areas.   

The school said their "systems and policies protect privacy for students, and in practice the footage is only reviewed on an as-needed basis".  

Students took issue with the bathrooms on Instagram.  

"Wtf is this," said one.   

"It looks like a prison cell," said another.   

One comment with 24 likes asked, "What if I need to have a breakdown?" implying that the bathrooms were not only used for rule-breaking and that the new set-up would compromise their privacy.   

Green Bay High School said, "There are times when students need extra support and a quiet space when there is a lot going on - and there are much better places than the toilet to go to when time out or support is needed".  

The high school directs students to their well-being centre as a preferable alternative.   

AM co-host Lloyd Burr said, "The actual cubicle doors aren't see-through so if you need a little bit of time, you can just go in there".  

However, he questioned the need for see-through doors if vape detection alarms were being installed.   

"I just think it's great that they're being proactive to try and solve what's becoming a very very big problem," said AM's Nicky Syris.   

Ministry of Education head of property Sam Fowler told the NZ Herald that as a school-led project, the final design detail of the bathroom was the school's responsibility. 

He confirmed the ministry advised schools to "provide a degree of passive surveillance into bathroom lobbies, without compromising cubicle privacy".  

He confirmed that cubicles must be fully enclosed and private.   

Phone ban  

The students behind the Instagram page are also taking issue with the ban on phones.   

The government's ban on phones in schools does not come into place until term two, but many schools are implementing it in term one.

In a post about the topic, the students declare, "This is a decree of war brought forth by the school we slave away at".

They told Newshub the new phone guidelines mean "students are feeling more isolated, anxious and ignored than ever before".  

They claim that their phones were a good method to relax that they will no longer have, a problem compounded by the loss of privacy in the bathrooms.   

The students also claim the phone ban will "further ostracize and isolate those who do not feel they have a friend group like I do, those who find it easier and preferable to listen to music or watch YouTube than to socialise".  

Their main message is the ban on phones and the bathroom surveillance do not tackle problems of "kids feeling overworked, unmotivated, anxious, depressed and at their breaking points," and may instead exacerbate the problems.