Teachers refused to let a girl use the toilet on two separate occasions when she had to take care of herself on her period, causing her to stain her clothes which traumatized her.
In a shocking series of events a 11-year-old girl from Bristol was forced to bleed through her clothes at school while she was on her period. Despite multiple requests she was not allowed to use the toilet. To be at that age and have to go through something as humiliating as that not once, but twice in a row has left the child traumatized. A student at the Cotham School, the girl is now terrified of going to school while on her period. Her mother is enraged over what has happened and had to call the school multiple times on both occasions before they finally took the necessary steps to make sure a similar incident does not happen again. There are no words to describe the mental and emotional ramifications of their negligence. As educators, they have failed to safeguard the well-being of the child and have unwittingly planted the seed for a negative association with something as natural as menstruation.
The girl's mother is upset over how the school has chosen to handle the situation and fears that other girls in her daughter's school and perhaps even across the UK might be struggling to take care of their basic health needs at school. The mother, who has chosen to remain anonymous to protect her daughter's identity, told Bristol Live, "They should not be making young girls feel guilty because she needs to go to the bathroom and sort out her basic care. Now, she’s scared to go to school in case they won’t let her out of the classroom, that’s not what we should be teaching girls."
"We should be allowing them to go as part of giving them the tools to achieve their goals whether they are on or off their period," she emphasized. Following the first incident in September, the child refused to go to school when it was time for her next period. It was especially difficult for the child to have to endure the ordeal, considering she was new at the school, too. The first time it happened, it was a non-uniform day and she bled out on her light blue jeans. Fortunately, she was wearing a jumper that was long enough to help conceal the stain. If you have ever had a period and bled through your clothes, you can imagine the discomfort she underwent while having to sit in her soiled clothes all day.
"I couldn't believe it. I rang the school and complained and they just said it would be okay and wouldn’t happen again. They seemed sorry it had happened but didn’t tell me how they would make sure it didn’t happen again," her mother shared. "Then, in October she came on again and she was petrified of going to school. I rang to say I was keeping her off and the attendance lady said I couldn't keep her off school for that reason. I understood that, but she was so worried in case it happened again. I was assured the teachers would be told and that if there any problems to get back in touch with her."
But the school's promises proved to empty. This time it was a male teacher who refused to allow the girl to go to the bathroom. Despite her repeated requests, he failed to understand the urgency and instead threatened her with another strike against her name on the board, even saying that he would send her to the SL learning classroom. The poor child bled through her clothes a second time. "It shouldn’t have gotten as far as her having to bleed through her clothes not once but twice in the space of a few short months. Schools should be finding ways to help kids not traumatize them," her mother declared.
When confronted by the girl's mother for traumatizing her daughter for a second time, the school kept ridiculously insisting that it was their policy. The incensed mother said, "I really think they should change their policy if that's the case, they need to do better." Adding further, "Their primary concern should be the welfare of girls who have the right to basic care and not focused solely on whether children will abuse some sort of pass system." The school seems to have trouble acknowledging their grave oversight and have not even attempted to apologize for what they put the 11-year-old through.
It seems the school needs to get itself educated first before being trusted to educate young boys and girls. As the girl's mother rightly said, "How can this happen in this day and age when there is so much information out there and we are meant to be much more open when talking about aspects of women’s health including a woman’s menstrual cycle?" We seem to be regressing as a community, given what the girl's mother recounted. "I can’t remember ever not being allowed to go to the toilet in school unless you had been a few times during class. I’m one of three sisters and none of us had to go through anything like this."
The school's spokesperson in an evident attempt to defend themselves weakly said, "The school does have a policy not to allow students out of lessons for the toilet as part of our Safeguarding procedures. Students should not be out of lessons unsupervised." Adding, "However, as staff, we are all keenly aware that we have young girls in our care and that, on occasion, they will need to use the toilet outside of the usual break times." Yet, the keenly aware staff somehow managed to force a little girl to bleed through her clothes twice. It was only after multiple calls from her mother that they finally gave the child a special pass for the toilet.
If they are so keenly aware, this toilet pass should have been issued to every menstruating girl in the school and not something that is bestowed upon a student after a parent's active pursuit for a solution. The school elaborated, "With regard to this particular incident we have been in full communication on several occasions with the mother and the young girl and have issued a toilet pass, as per our school policy, so that this will not happen again. The toilet pass can be shown discretely to the teacher so that there is no explanation required. Many young girls and boys who have need of the toilet outside of lessons have these passes at Cotham School." Cautiously adding, "The welfare and well-being of our students is always at the forefront of what we do and we will always endeavor to work with parents and carers to support the needs of their child or children." If the school had taken necessary steps when it counted most instead of pretending to take action, a little girl would not have had to be traumatized twice. Hopefully, this incident will motivate educational institutions to consider the realistic applications of policies before mindlessly crafting them.