Rio Rancho HS to try new bathroom design to curb bad behavior

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RIO RANCHO, N.M. — From vandalism to vaping, bad behavior is happening behind closed doors in Rio Rancho high schools. So, the district’s solution is to take the doors away.

“It came about by a complaint from the high school principals, and they were seeing a lot of vandalism that was being done in the bathrooms,” said Michael Baker, the Chief Operations Officer for Rio Rancho Public Schools. “If you remember, some time ago, there was a TikTok challenge.”

As a result of the “Devious Licks” challenge – a trend where TikTokers steal school equipment and post it online – Baker said students caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to the high school bathrooms. In addition to vandalism, RRPS reps dealt with students setting fires in the bathrooms, smoking, vaping, bullying and physically fighting.

District officials surveyed parents and students before settling on a potential solution that targets the area where these events happen most frequently.

The school board greenlit a plan in March to redesign a single traditional bathroom at Rio Rancho High School, based on a model used in Minnesota schools. The prototype crews will construct this summer does not include enclosing walls and a door.

“Because there’s an enclosed area, we do not have a video system in there to record to record what’s going on and for obvious reasons,” Baker said.

He said opening the space will allow for increased surveillance and security. For privacy, stalls will extend from floor to ceiling with separate sides for boys and girls, plus accommodations for transgender and disabled students.

“They would come out of that one stall where they could wash their hands in a more open concept area.”

RRPS estimates the work will cost $400,000 and hopes it will be completed sometime in early fall. While the change only impacts one bathroom, Baker said the school board may elect to renovate additional restrooms throughout RRPS campuses, if there is enough of a positive change.