Bethel High School in Yuen Long has implemented a new policy requiring students to fill out a form before going to the toilet during lessons, according to Ming Pao.

The school’s principal confirmed to the newspaper that the new policy was implemented in November. The forms are to be signed by teachers. There are breaks between every two lessons and students can still use the toilets every 10 to 20 minutes, she said.

Photo: Bethel High School.

The school saw a decrease in instances of students using the facilities during lessons after the policy was implemented, she said.

The newspaper also reported that the school only opened facilities on one level for students to use, and arranged for school staff to guard them. Toilets on the other two levels are closed during class time.

According to a photo provided to Ming Pao, the permission form contains columns for the student’s name, class, the location of the classroom, the time of leaving the classroom, and the time of return. It also requires the teacher’s signature and says that two copies of the form must be filled out before leaving the classroom – one to be given to staff on duty at the toilet, and one to be given to the teacher when the student returns to the classroom.

‘Reduced to tears’

Sources quoted by the paper said students had been playing and smoking in the toilets, and staying for extended periods of time while they were supposed to be in class. The source also said that some students “held it in” because they thought the procedure was too much trouble, and some students had been reduced to tears by this.

The principal said that students going to the bathroom during class affects their own learning progress and also disrupts the class. The policy was implemented to create a safe and orderly learning environment. She also said that the school would consider different opinions and examine the policy regularly.

A classroom at Bethel High School. Photo: Bethel High School.

A spokesperson from the Education Bureau said that the bureau had not received complaints about the matter, and suggested that schools should consider the opinions of teachers, parents and students before making arrangements, and prioritise the benefits to students.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said that the school’s action was strange. The forms would increase administrative work for the school, he said. He believes that the school would not introduce new policies for no reason, Ip added.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.