Las Vegas (KSNV) — Earlier this week, an email was sent to Chaparral High School parents informing them that all student restrooms were closed “for student safety and repairs.”
In their place, 19 portable toilets—or porta-potties—were installed Tuesday in front of Chaparral High School along Annie Oakley Dr in southeast Las Vegas.
This move caught students and staff by surprise and has triggered many unforeseen consequences and health concerns.
“It’s a sanitary issue, and I feel it’s cruel and unusual punishment,” said one concerned staff member. They asked to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisal.
According to the staff member, no work has been done on the closed bathrooms, as far as they can tell.
Both the employee and a student, who also asked to remain anonymous for the same reasons, said with the porta-potties, most students aren’t washing their hands.
The staff member also said students were choosing not to use the portable toilets at all. They are instead holding it in for the duration of the school day.
The student and staffer added the entire situation is depriving the school of basic safety needs. The employee referred to it as a “draconian display of collective punishment.”
The situation allegedly came from a Monday incident where someone lit at least one fire in a school bathroom. The fire alarms went off multiple times as a result.
“The principal announced that he was closing all bathrooms because of a non-student burning the trash cans or something like that,” said the Chaparral student. “And then he just said that he would be closing it.”
It wasn’t clear what was meant by a non-student as both the employee and student were under the impression someone unaffiliated with the school may have lit the fire.
Once the porta-potties were installed, News 3 received multiple emails complaining about the situation.
Chaparral’s website lists the school as having over 2500 students. With 19 porta-potties seen outside the school on Thursday, that means there’s about one portable toilet for every 132 students.
“The inability to wash your hands, they don’t do that in jails,” said the employee.
The portable toilets outside of Chaparral do have hand sanitizer but lack any type of water and soap to wash their hands properly.
Some may think that’s sufficient, but Dr. Ati Hakimi, a family medicine physician with Vegas Direct Primary Care, said it’s not good enough.
“Hand sanitizers are able to kill some types of germs, but not all the types of germs,” Dr. Hakimi said. “So we really prefer the soap and water situation in terms of full cleanliness.”
Hakimi added if she were a parent of a Chaparral student, she would be concerned about the situation.
“Students need to be able to use the restroom when they need to use the restroom in terms of preventing various things such as urinary tract infections,” she said. “Holding your urine and or bowel movements is not really sanitary, either. So having that accessibility is extremely important.”
A student at the school said they’re prone to urinary tract infections, so their mom asked the school to let her kid use the staff restroom, which is still open.
The school refused, according to the student.
Another cause for concern, the student said, is the fact the porta-potties are positioned outside the school gates, meaning anyone from the street can walk in and use them.
“It’s just all really scary for a lot of people right now,” the student said. “Not only is the mask mandate off, which I know a lot of my friends and I are concerned about. There’s also now, we can’t wash your hands with soap.”
News 3 reached out to Clark County School District on Thursday, asking specific questions addressing these concerns. No response was received as of Thursday night.