I have thought about writing on this topic, bathroom breaks, for a long time, and I am finally going to do it. As a sub, I come across all kinds of classroom rules and consequences regarding student use of the bathroom. I really try to follow all the rules of the classrooms I'm in, but on this matter I just can't say no. I am aware that the request may be just an excuse to get up and move around, but I understand because I have needed to get up and move around or clear my head with a short walk many times a day during my 30+ years of office work. When I needed a minute to sort out my thoughts, I got up to file a few papers or get a cup of coffee.
I know I can't have a constant stream of students in and out while I'm teaching a lesson. However, if they are all asking to go during that time, I'd better spruce up my delivery in a hurry. When they are working on their own or in a group, I think they should be allowed to make a quick trip to the bathroom. With very few limitations, I think deciding when to use the bathroom should be one of the choices students have in school.
In a video I recently watched, Rick Lavoie detailed some bathroom use rules and consequences he has come across. He mentioned one that kept a whole class in for recess if too many students left class to use the bathroom. Another incident was about a special needs boy who asked to go about the same time every day. When his teacher finally asked him why he didn't go with the rest of the class before recess, he responded by telling her that the adults didn't protect him during that time and how the group of boys always ganged up on him. Rick ended by pleading, "Let my people go!" And I do.