AUSTIN, Texas — Austin ISD says the doors from the bathrooms to the hallways have been removed at Travis Early College High School.
The principal of Travis Early College High School, Christina Steele Hantgin, made the decision to remove the doors after "significant behavioral events." One high school senior says they were never told about the change until after the fact.
"They didn’t really inform anybody that it was going to happen, so it’s not really fair to just take it away and not let everybody get an opinion in on it,” said the senior.
In a letter to parents from the South Austin school's principal, she said the decision to take them out was not taken lightly. "Our bathrooms were unsafe and student incidents are evidence of this," said Hantgin.
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Hantgin later says in a letter she understands there is some discomfort caused by the loss of some privacy.
The district says the decision was made after multiple violations of the school’s code of conduct. Hantgin says in her letter that 90% of drug offenses this year have taken place in the restrooms.
The district says all the stalls have doors and none of the stalls are visible from the hallway. Since the removal, they haven’t seen any more issues, but some students are hopeful the district comes up with a different plan.
"I would like to get our doors back,” said the senior.
The AISD spokesperson also says there are other high schools with a similar format but did not provide any details on which schools those are.
The full letter reads:
The decision to remove the doors from the bathrooms to the hallways was not taken lightly. I understand that there is some discomfort caused by the loss of some privacy and my lack of communication did not help. More transparency would have been best. I want to offer my sincere apology and I hope this communication will clarify any concerns and share some of our future plans.
We have had multiple significant behavioral events along with other student code of conduct violations that have taken place in our restrooms already this year. Our bathrooms were unsafe and student incidents are evidence of this. Ninety percent of our drug offenses this year have taken place in the restrooms. I believe part of creating a safe environment for students involves being proactive and supporting them to make better decisions. We have had no incidents in the restrooms since the removal of the doors.
My number one priority is safety. Removing the doors is one of many strategies we are planning or implementing to keep our campus a safe learning environment. We had great success with the start of our tardy policy this week. Tardies decreased dramatically and students benefited from more instructional time in their classrooms. If tardies continue to decrease, we will be adding ten minutes to Lunch on Friday as a celebration.
We provide all students with social and emotional connections and strategies through our advisory classes. We understand that this time and these lessons are beneficial to students overall well being and success as a student. I am also researching and meeting with an outside organization about supporting our campus with using restorative justice practices that will help us build a healthier community and promote peace.
I want to assure you I contacted other campuses in AISD to see how they were responding to these behaviors on their campuses. I wanted to identify strategies that would be equitable and effective. We have tried other strategies such as locking bathroom doors that cannot be consistently monitored, but this is inconvenient for students because they must walk further to find an open restroom and lose more instructional time. And when staff is not available, only one or two restrooms are open for the entire campus. All restrooms have been checked to ensure that no stall can be seen from the hallway and that all stalls on our campus have doors.
I hope this answers your questions and I invite you to join us at our Principal’s Coffee Nov. 16th from 9:30AM-10:30AM in the Library. I can answer any additional or specific questions you might have at the meeting or via email. Thank you for your continued support of our students and our community.
Christina Steele Hantgin Principal
Travis Early College High School