Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Bathroom Man

Yet another reason for homeschooling, school choice, or perhaps privatizing janitorial services with performance-based contracts that specify outcomes like clean bathrooms.

With upwards of 900,000 public school lavatories in the United States (Keating estimates that as many as forty percent are "horrific"), it's a monumental, never-ending battle. "Everybody knows the problems. What people don't spend time on is suggestions or solutions," says Keating, 61, a self-employed educator based in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. For Bathroom Man the problem goes beyond empty soap dispensers, cracked mirrors and overflowing toilets—it's a fight against the forces of apathy. "Some school superintendents will say, 'This is a problem that has been around forever and everybody has this problem,'" reports Keating.

Instead of giving in to this failure mentality, Keating started Project CLEAN (Citizens, Learners and Educators Against Neglect) in 1996. He got the idea from his son and daughter, who, along with a lot of other kids, avoided the restrooms at school at all costs. "I would be mowing the lawn and our next door neighbor, Ty, would race into his house to go to the bathroom because he held it in all day," remembers Keating.

In fact, it was the neighborhood kids' unending horror stories that led him to investigate the issues. "I got permission—which took a little doing—to go to a high school in Dekalb County [Georgia] and cleaned toilets for six hours one day," he recalls. "I went back the next day and they were just as bad as they were [before I cleaned them]."

Today, Keating doesn't need to don rubber gloves to be effective. "My job is as a coordinator, facilitator and cheerleader," he says. "I'm trying to get school districts and kids to do what they ought to do."

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