Ore. school changes potty policy that punished kids for going too often

LEBANON, Ore. -- Some parents at Cascades Elementary School are outraged. They say teachers are punishing kids for going to the bathroom too often. Teachers contend that they need these policies to effectively manage their classrooms.

Melissa Dalebout says her daughter, Lily, a first-grader, had an accident at school. Lily was trying to hold her urine. In her class, kids are charged "Super Pro" bucks to use the restroom if they didn't use their other potty breaks wisely. Kids collect the fake money they've earned to buy trinkets at the school store. And they'll do just about anything to hang on to it.

"I just feel my children should not be punished for having to use the bathroom, even if they didn't take advantage of a recess break because they may not have been thinking of it. "They're children," says Dalebout.

At Cascades Elementary, teachers employ other payment strategies, as well. If kids use the bathroom outside the three designated break times, they can lose two minutes of recess.

"Typically if the kiddo is missing any core instruction time, they want them to make up what they've missed," says Tami Volz, school principal.

Parents Sarah and Brian Palkki say that it's more punishment than payment in their daughter's class.

"She was crying one morning, because she felt her tummy to be a little sour," says Sarah Palkki, "so she was thinking that she might have to use the restroom at school."

Alexis, 8, feared she'd get "clipped down" on her classroom's chart for using the bathroom too often. The chart tracks students' behavior - good or bad - on a daily basis. But Volz insists that its use is limited.

"If a student is chronically leaving the classroom, it becomes an intervention strategy for the teacher, I think, to really encourage them to be in class," says Volz.

"I like the chart for behavioral issues," says Sarah Palkki. "I don't view going to the restroom as a behavioral issue."

Cascades Elementary is not alone. The KATU Problem Solvers checked with other schools. In addition to hall passes and signing in and out to use the restroom, teachers elsewhere are using some of these same strategies.

Dr. Bruce Birk is a Portland pediatrician. He says that there's consensus in the medical community on this issue.

"It would be chaos in a classroom for teachers not to have a system," says Birk. "Holding in the classroom in between well-established potty breaks has not been shown in any sense of the word to be harmful to kids."

Dalebout is unconvinced.

"I'd like to see that policy or teacher rule, gone," says Dalebout. "I don't believe that's right."

It appears the staff at Cascades has had a change of heart.

After an interview with KATU Problem Solver Shellie Bailey-Shah and a meeting with her staff, Principal Volz agreed to drop the clipping down and Super Pro payment practices.

However, teachers can still withhold recess time if kids miss instructional time during unscheduled bathroom breaks.