Stories & News Blogs School toilets: heaven or hell? Dan Colegate, regular ERIC blogger, recalls his experiences of using the toilet at secondary school. By the time I started at secondary school I hardly noticed my continual soiling as abnormal. Many of my coping mechanisms were autopilots. I was well settled into my routines of making toilet paper pant liners, timing my toilet visits to try and minimise the number of times I'd have to ask to leave the room in lessons and casually making up plausible excuses to friends to explain where I'd vanished to. Nothing was going to change as far as I was concerned. To do otherwise would mean asking for help which wasn't an option for me then. "Asking for help wasn't an option for me then" The school environment What did change, however, was that there were far more students, far less toilets per classroom and the boisterousness of the other males around me rocketed with puberty. I was forced into an environment with boys up to 5 years older than me who may as well have been grown men from my perspective, except without any apparent maturity or sensitivity. Toilets could no longer be counted on to be serviceable or safe Casual vandalism of school property, not seen in junior school, was more common and toilets tended to bear the brunt of this. They were often found in a filthy state. Broken locks were the norm as was finding all of the toilet paper jammed in the now blocked bowl or the now overflowing sinks. Toilets could no longer be counted on to be serviceable or safe. In fact, everywhere felt less safe and the consequences of accidents being discovered more severe. Bullying in the toilets Untargeted bullying also increased and a common example of this was an act I call 'toilet kicking'. Typically I'd be in a cubicle using my bag to hold to the door closed while I tried to switch my paper liner or wipe/scrape out the mess that had broken through the old one when a particular boy or boys would enter. I'd hear their voices first and seconds later they'd notice someone was in the cubicle. "Who is it".... "Colegate is that you"....."dirty bastard".....and they'd start kicking the door open leaving me using one arm to try and hold it shut while pulling up my soiled underwear before they noticed they were dirty. It wasn't just me they were after, they'd do this to anyone. It's just that offhand acts of random bullying like this made me terrified of being in comprehensive school toilets a second longer than I needed to be. They'd start kicking the door open leaving me using one arm to try and hold it shut while pulling up my soiled underwear before they noticed they were dirty But I never reported it. That would have been 'grassing' and I feared that would draw even more unwanted attention focused specifically on me. In other areas of school I largely 'fitted in' and was left alone and I wanted things to stay that way. Finding a safe haven I tried on countless break times to sneak past the corridor monitors to reach the out of bounds areas of school to use the toilets there in peace. The technology toilets were my usual target. Sensibly locked down at break and lunch they could still be reached by a long corridor that ran from the maths department, which so happened to be where there was a permitted toilet and a few open classrooms for computer club. I'd ask to go inside to use the loo or to the computer room, walk slowly towards my apparent destination while scoping out the corridor and then, if the coast looked clear, make a silent dash for it. Sometimes I made it. Usually I'd hear "where do you think you're going" and be sent back outside. Thankfully the dinner ladies and teacher on patrol must have assumed I was just trying it on. No-one ever seemed to ask where I was really going or why I tried so often. It was worth the risk since if I did make it I could spend as long as I wanted to in cubicle heaven. No noise, no kicking, less mess, fewer empty paper dispensers and flooded floors. Once inside I could have as many accidents as I needed to (which were far more frequent after lunch of course) until lessons started again that is. Far easier to make up a story about where I'd been to my friends than waddle around the playground dirty after all. Asking for help There are, of course, many more examples but these two always stand out to me whenever I recall my time at comprehensive school. Not just in terms of my bowel incontinence, but as my experience of school in general. As an apparently intelligent student why didn't it cross my mind to quietly ask for a few adaptations? I actually remember very little about my time in class and with friends. The big question I suppose is why didn't I ask for help? As an apparently intelligent student (I did well in class) why didn't it cross my mind to quietly ask for a few adaptations? A little leeway in toilet access for example. Surely something could have been done. It is this question I will try and answer next month. Sharing my experience This is only a very brief part of my incontinence journey. There is so much more I want to say. That is why I'm excited to have the opportunity in the months ahead to write more about different areas of my journey as a guest blogger for ERIC. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions for things you would like me to cover then please don't hesitate to get in touch by commenting below, via Twitter @IncontinentDan or via my website at www.estheranddan.com To make sure you don’t miss one of my guest posts, sign up to ERIC’s monthly newsletter and you’ll receive it straight to your inbox. Help and information if the issues Dan has raised affect you: Read how other teenagers manage their wetting and soiling accidents when they're at school. Our information about best practice in relation to toileting in schools. Where to go for help and support if you're being bullied. Dan has written two previous guest blogs for ERIC: My bowel incontinence journey - from hiding to sharing and School toilets: tactics and timings.