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Battle over bathrooms

It may be the most prestigious school in the city, but at the Boston Latin Academy, "some of the bathrooms don't have doors, some don't have toilet paper dispensers, and some of the toilets don't flush," says sophomore Jameela Philip.

Fed up with conditions of restrooms at Boston schools, the 17-year-old and about 500 of her fellow students from around the city got together and took their complaints to district officials.

The students are part of the Boston Youth Organizing Project, a group made up of 40 church congregations, schools, and health and community organizations. Earlier this year, the project conducted a survey of 200 Boston students and found that one of the greatest concerns was the condition of the restrooms.

So, in an effort to do something about the problem, the students took pictures of restrooms with missing stall doors, graffiti, leaky pipes, and other problems. Then they scheduled meetings with school principals, and on June 1 they met with Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant.

The superintendent said last week that he appreciated the students' input and vowed to work with them on the problem.

"They not only identified the problem, but wanted to be part of the solution," Mr. Payzant said. ''This issue has been around since I started being a superintendent in the 1960s," he added. "It's not just here but every place."

At the meeting, the students suggested that janitors have a checklist and a sign-in sheet in each restroom that would establish a record of when bathrooms are cleaned and toiletries are restocked.

Khadijah Abdus-Sabur, the assistant director of planning and engineering for the 63,000-student system, noted that students must also accept some of the responsibility for keeping the facilities clean. "The students need to help us institute these procedures," she said.

Mr. Payzant said that district officials, working with students over the summer, would come up with plans on how to keep the restrooms cleaner.

--Candice Furlan

Vol. 18, Issue 40, Page 3

Published in Print: June 16, 1999, as Take Note

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