FORTY STUDENTS who took part in a protest against a school rule at a North Yorkshire secondary this morning have been excluded for a week, with some facing a ban from their end-of-year “prom” event.
Two police officers attended when the students sat on the playing field at Bedale High School to protest at a rule over how frequently they can use the toilet.
Parents have branded the rule as ‘appalling’, explaining that students can only use the toilet during break time, and a half an hour slot in their lunch break, unless they have exceptional medical circumstances.
Year 11 student, Caitlin Mclean, said the rule which was introduced around February time, had ‘humiliated’ her when she was refused access to the toilet.
She said: “You are supposed to be able to go to the toilet, you can’t be restricted from doing something that is your everyday routine, you have to go to the toilet at some point.
The whole reason why we went out is so nothing embarrassing happens to us again, it’s not just me that has been in that situation it’s been a few of us and we wanted to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Around 35 female students were involved with the protest, with a number of male students bringing the total involved to 40.
But Caitlin explained the demonstration, which had been organised via social media the night before, started to get out of hand when the fire alarm was set off by a student.
She said: “There were more and more people coming out saying the rule was a problem, so last night a massive group chat was made and we all planned to go into the toilets and stay there for the first two lessons and make a point.
“But the teachers obviously came in and said they were going to try and move us so we ran and sat on the school field instead.”
“It got quite bad towards the end, with the fire alarm being set off the fire brigade came and when they found out who set it off they got taken away by the police officers.
“Because the whole school was out on the field a lot of people were joining us and I wouldn’t say it got violent but it just got taken too far by some students.
“All of the students that were there have been excluded for a week all 40 of us. But all of the parents that came in said what their children did was right. We have all been sent home and we are not allowed back to the school next week.
“I went back to the school to hand the Head a letter from my mum saying how disgusted she was at how it had been dealt with and they were still trying to get parents to come in who were refusing to pick their children up.”
Caitlin explained that the year 11 students involved in the protest, herself included, have been told they might not be allowed to go to prom.
She said: “I’m not exactly happy and my mum wasn’t happy at all because we have already bought my dress. There will be nothing else I do with the people in my year before we go our separate ways.”
Caitlin’s mum, Emily said: “As a parent I’m disgusted. I think everyone has the right to be able to use the toilet when they need to.
“I know the school are trying to get some order and stop children skiving and bullying in the toilet but they could of dealt with it differently and not punish every child for something that only a few are abusing.
“Both my children have come home and told me that they have physically been stopped by the student prefects who monitor the toilets it’s just wrong!
“I support her 100 per cent she’s never been in trouble and excluded from school before.”
A spokesperson for North Yorkshire County Council said: “Bedale High School has recently introduced a new behavioural code as part of an action plan to improve teaching and learning in the school.
“The code includes a range of measures to ensure that students are focused and can get the most out of their lessons and wider school provision.
“These measures include students having access to fresh drinking water at all times and being able to take bags into lessons so they have ready access to all the materials they need for learning.
“The code also includes tighter rules on uniform and on reducing the numbers of students outside of classrooms during lesson time.
“As part of this the school has reminded students that toilets are freely accessible during specific periods at lunchtime and break time but that students who need the toilet during lessons, or need access for medical reasons, will always be given access on request. Toilets are therefore accessible at all times.
“Bedale High is a school of 580 students and the vast majority today have participated fully and calmly with their lessons and wider provision.
“The school has stated that families and students were fully informed of the new behaviour code before half term and that many have given supportive feedback and view it as a positive step.”
After two PCSO’s attended the scene, North Yorkshire Police said officers had advised the school that the incident was not a police matter.