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Northport High School requires bathroom sign-in

Exterior of Northport High School, Tuesday, Sept. 9,

Exterior of Northport High School, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Northport High School students have joined those at other Long Island schools who have to sign in and out to use the bathroom.

Principal Irene McLaughlin said this week that the new policy was driven by an effort to keep students safe. McLaughlin said officials were trying to prevent problems including drug use, bullying and vandalism.

"This is not in reaction to any specific incident," she said.

While Northport school officials say they have adapted the policy since it was first established last week to cut down on bathroom wait times, frustrated Northport students say they are still waiting in line.

Some students said they've missed class time due to the new procedure, which requires them to show ID to a security guard or teacher before signing in to the facilities.

Before the policy, officials kept some of the school's bathrooms locked at certain times of day and prevented students from using the facilities between classes. Now all bathrooms are open during school hours, including between periods.

Jackie Romero, 18, a senior, said she was stuck in a bathroom line Wednesday for so long that she needed extra time with her history teacher to make up for missed class time.

"We think it's pretty stupid," Romero said. "You can't go into the bathroom. . . . It just takes up valuable school time."

Baldwin High School is among those that require students to sign in and out of bathrooms. Wantagh tried it earlier this year after threats were made at the school.

Northport High School has had more self-reported drug and alcohol incidents in recent years than other high schools in Huntington Town. In 2012-2013, the most recent period for which data are available, Northport reported 38 drug incidents and three incidences of alcohol possession on campus.

Northport has more than 2,000 students and is the second largest high school in town by enrollment, but it had a higher ratio of drug and alcohol incidents compared with total student population. Commack High School, which has a higher enrollment, reported eight incidences of drug and alcohol possession in 2012-2013.

Schools self-report the data to the state education department, and some school officials say schools that report can be misperceived as more problematic than schools that fail to report incidents.

Still, some argue that Northport High's problem is real.

"We have a major drug problem [at the high school]," said Tammie Topel, a parent and former trustee on the district's school board, adding that students and parents talk about drug use at Northport all the time.

"Kids say they may be afraid to go in the bathrooms because of what they may be presented, and drug use and drug sales are two of the things that happen," Topel said.McLaughlin said the school reached out to 12 other high schools before implementing the sign-in policy. Of those, she said eight had a similar -- or stricter -- policy for accessing the bathroom.

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