Water in schools - what readers say
April 22nd, 2011
12:25 PM ET

Water in schools - what readers say

Tune into "Sanjay Gupta, M.D."7:30A.M. ET  Saturday- Sunday to learn more about water in schools.

This week’s story about the difficulties many children have with getting drinking water at school  prompted a lot of interesting comments. My interest in this story began in December after reading through the actual legislation that President Obama signed into law on that day.

Many people, especially those in politics and media, often make a big deal about the number of pages that make up federal legislation like health care reform, but what always strikes me is the opposite: How little is written to change so much.  Think about it – the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 defines nutrition policy for America’s schoolchildren, and it’s 200 pages long with only 25 lines per page. That’s much less text than the book you’d read while sitting on the beach. And the section mandating that every public school across the country provide free drinking water? It's just eight lines long.

It’s so brief in fact it’s easy to miss – but when you think about what it's saying, it's a huge deal. Why is it in there? What is it trying to accomplish? That’s what led to the earlier article, and to all of your comments. Here are just some of the reader comments that struck me, grouped into similar themes.

Many readers shared their personal experiences with dehydration in school.

“My son suffers dehydration at school. His excuse was long lines at the water fountain.” – gman21

“Kids are trained from a young age to be dehydrated all the time. Regardless of any other problem in the diet, that’s a huge issue.” – Mijan

“Only ¼ of the fountains in the buildings actually works, and those aren’t trusted. I simply go all school day with nothing to drink.” –-adloq

“On the days we forget to fill a water bottle for my boy he complains about having been thirsty all day ‘cause he only get like 3 seconds at the water fountain ‘cause only one of the fountains works well and there are so many kids. Ridiculous.” – cyclelogger

Some readers suggested children should bring their own bottles of water to school.

“If your kid isn’t getting enough water, give them a water bottle and fill it up for them to bring to school.” – yoinkmasta10

“Why isn’t a metal or plastic water bottle simply included in the list of school supplies for the year?” – BetterReform

But many schools do not allow bottles.

“Some kid brought alcohol to my kids school last year in a plastic water bottle. As a result, under the school’s “zero tolerance” policy, any student bringing a water bottle to school will be summarily suspended – regardless what the bottle contains.” – Budster90

“We weren’t allowed to bring water bottles to school…it was pretty ridiculous of them to essentially forbid kids from drinking water during class.” – RosaFranklin

“I used to come home from school every single day with a horrible headache. It was lack of water. There simply wasn’t enough time in between classes, and teachers didn’t allow any food or beverages in the class.” – Thinking7

At least two readers reported needing a doctor’s note for their children to be served water with lunch.

“No note, no water.” – Guest

Some readers see the revenue from bottled water as the real reason schools don’t provide better access to water.

“‘If students drink free water served at school instead of purchasing competitive beverages…’ says it all.” – Worldwalker

The issue of bathroom breaks came up too – how kids will need more time to go.

“If they are going to give them enough water, they need to start giving them enough bathroom breaks as well…my daughter refuses to drink anything during the school day because she doesn’t have enough time to use the bathroom.” – SaraBeth4115

There is no problem with water in schools according to some.

“WOW! What a non-story!” – JackK1

Others point out all the waste disposable cups would create, and suggest children be allowed to use bottles.

“Cups are a terrible idea. They cost money, you have to keep putting that money into them, and they create a TON of waste. Do what the Germans did, and give the kids reusable water bottles.” – Techsupp0rt

And one reader did the math on how much time kids at Vista Middle School have to drink from the water fountains there.

“Hmmm…are 4 fountains ‘enough’? 1700 kids/ 4 water fountains for lunch = 425 kids per water fountain. 425 kids / 30 minute lunch period = 14 kids per minute for each fountain. 60 seconds/14 kids = 4.2 seconds per kid to approach the fountain and drink. Sounds like a highly inadequate hydration opportunity to me.” – songwright

Watch Sanjay Gupta MD Saturday at 4:30pm and Sunday at 7:30am ET. For the latest from Sanjay Gupta MD click here.

soundoff (984 Responses)
  1. Demara

    If I'm thirsty in class, which I often am, I can't just keep leaving the room to go to the water fountain. Not when I'm involved in university-level courses at a high school level. I can't afford to miss class time to hydrate myself. And the fountains taste terrible.

    I'd take a reusable water bottle with me, but once I get it to school, whatever I filled it with is either warm or stale-tasting. I have to purchase something from the school cafeteria and that isn't fair. I can't afford $1.75 a day for water! That's over $5.00 a week; in a month that is $20, then multiply that by however many months I'm at school for...$50. Too much.

    April 22, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Demara

      Wait, that's not quite right. The proper math comes out to a whopping $200.00 for 10 months of water in school.

      April 22, 2011 at 15:19 | Report abuse |
    • Ituri

      Excuses. If what you're carrying is "warm and stale" when you get to class, you need a grown up thermos, not one with Hello Kitty on it. A proper thermos will keep coffee piping hot for HOURS, and keep an iced drink cold for just as long. Toss some ice in with your water and it'll be cold and fresh at least half the day.

      That, and most universities are expecting you to act like an ADULT now, which means you have every right to carry water or leave the class to rehydrate. Missing 2 minutes of class so you aren't thirsty the remaining 2 hours of class, which do you think enables you to learn more?

      April 22, 2011 at 16:01 | Report abuse |
    • Ian Davis

      You might need to consider tolerating the warm water. After all, room temperature water is actually better for your entire body than cold water (although, I agree, the cold water tastes better).

      Also, the math works out to about $360 for ten months. Those fractions of a dollar add up quickly.

      April 22, 2011 at 16:02 | Report abuse |
  2. tina lovejoy

    I have had similar problems, my daughter comes home with a headache if she doesn't take a water bottle, but if she does, the teacher and all the students watch very closely to be certain that she hasn't put in a sugarFREE additive, with little color, to sweeten the deal! What a ridiculous world we live in. The additive adds flavor to encourage drinking it instead of juice or soda. The teachers don't want it because of spills,which I understand, but it is not sticky and non staining because it is virtually colorless! As an educator I am saddened. There are also students having constipation problems all over this country that doctors and parents see as "accidents" later, but it is caused by children's bowels becoming so impacted that they leak bowel out without knowing it. The embarrassment that this causes the children is huge. It could ALL be avoided with water and more understanding when allowing the use of the bathroom. It is the LAW. Signed- Tired of educating Educators

    April 22, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Amy Thomlinson

    My children don't even have a water fountain available near the cafeteria in their high school. They take their lunches but the only beverage allowed in lunches is canned beverages because anything else can be opened and refilled with alcohol. So basically the school insists my kids get soda pop or nothing to drink as my kids have problems with milk. I think schools should make cups of water an optional beverage for lunch even if they don't let kids drink water all day long. Both my sons have suffered from constipation and body odor problems since they started school. They don't have the problem in the summer when they are home drinking water all day long. But the school won't even allow water in their lunch with a doctor's note. The school does sell soda pop and gatorade (in bottles) in the commons area.

    April 22, 2011 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ituri

      Sounds like its time for a PTA take-over meeting. Insist on real options, and insist that sugar drinks like soda or gaterade are NOT replacements for water. A school that can't provide enough water for its students is either stupid or ridiculously hard-headed.

      April 22, 2011 at 16:05 | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      See if your kids would like Talking Rain. It's just flavored carbonated water, and it comes in a can or in a plastic bottle. It's naturally flavored, so it does not contain aspartame or any calories. It also curbs my craving for something carbonated, but doesn't make me nauseous from the syrupy sweetness of soda. My favorites are Tangerine and Lemon Lime. Give it a try 🙂

      April 22, 2011 at 16:11 | Report abuse |
    • charley t

      sue the school. your public school is causing your kids to become diabetics. I was drinking one pop a day like your public school is requiring your kids to do. My doctor said I'm diabetic from it and told me to avoid all sugary drinks, including Gatorade, PowerAde.

      Also need to avoid fruit juices in that case.

      July 8, 2017 at 17:18 | Report abuse |
  4. oneHigginsD@hotmail.com

    The CITY PARK that most CHILDREN play at in my Town had all the Drinking Fountains Removed so that the ONLY source of Water to Drink – was from Bottle Vending Machines to collect Money for the City. I and many other Parents found this UNACCEPTABLE and made the City put the Fountains Back.

    April 22, 2011 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. VastlyAmused

    My daughter had the same issues at her school about carrying her own water supply, even WITH a doctor's note (she is on medication that increases the risk of dehydration). They expected her to buy her water from their machines at $2.50/bottle! Now I have the law to back me up–if they don't let her bring her own, they need to provide it.

    April 22, 2011 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • charley t

      From my experience, your public school will most likely say that they ARE providing it for her by providing it in their vending machines. (for her to buy).

      which is a copout by the public schools, but is what they do.

      July 8, 2017 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
  6. Rae

    I'm in my last year of a Canadian high school, and I have never heard of water bottles being banned from school. Every person I know at school keeps a reusable water bottle in there locker, they are all either the 500ml metal bottles or 500ml or 1l BPA free plastic bottles, I swear by my 1l nalgeen bottle which is easy and light plus it only needs to be filled once a day

    April 22, 2011 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rae

      Oh and I meant to say that I have never heard of a school including water in a no food or drink policy.
      I know in my school you are allowed to have water with you as long as it is seellable

      April 22, 2011 at 17:51 | Report abuse |
  7. toddflanders

    And people wonder why our country is going to hell! I can't believe we have produced a generation of children that need to have water with them all the time. People obviously have no clue about dehydration. You don't get dehydrated if you don't drink for a few hours. It would also teach you to drink at appropriate times. Time to grow up

    April 22, 2011 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • person

      If someone's brain is dehydrated as a child, will they lack sense as an adult? Tell us, toddflanders.

      April 22, 2011 at 20:02 | Report abuse |
    • Appropriate

      I think the article is also saying that adequate water is not available at appropriate times. I would consider lunch time an appropriate time. If students aren't allowed to drink in class then they need to be able to drink at lunch and before and after school.

      April 23, 2011 at 11:35 | Report abuse |
  8. aersixb9

    I think we should burn those, they're very expensive and make our kids dumb and weak.

    April 24, 2011 at 01:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Brad

    This is a non-issue. I simply have a glass of water before school and a soda with lunch and i've been fine all day. Do we really need to mandate on a federal level that drinking water be required?

    April 25, 2011 at 07:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eghosa

      Without good clean then life will change. We take clean water for grnetad and dont ever think about what would it be like if we did not have it. Look at most of these countries that dont have clean water its a shame.

      March 3, 2012 at 17:06 | Report abuse |
    • charley t

      Well, you got off lucky. quite a lot of public schools have now banned water because "it's a look alike drug", "looks exactly like an alcoholic drink" "which is against school rules and school policy about look alike drugs, lookalike alcoholic drinks, and lookalike tobacco."

      And the school adminisrators, teachers, and all the public school staff are all too dumb and idiotic to be able to tell the difference between water and an an alcoholic drink.

      So, yes it IS an issur.

      July 8, 2017 at 17:29 | Report abuse |
  10. DosRuedas

    Water has truly become a tradeable commodity. The very stuff our lives depend on is sold and traded in the public market. Your child's well-being is being sacrificed for profit. As a developed country we are finding ways to limit access to water for profit while undeveloped countries are just trying to find a way to secure the resource to live.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jamie

    When I was in highschool a decade ago we weren't allowed to have drinks outside of the cafeteria during lunch time. Water wasn't available unless you sipped it from the wretched fountains that were typically broken. One day towards the end of the school year when it was hot outside I bought a fruit punch drink from a vending machine before gym class knowing I'd be thirsty afterwards (if I had known better then I would have made a better beverage choice). While changing after class I opened it and drank some because I was really thirsty and the obese sad sack of a gym teacher saw me from her office and screamed at me and made me pour it all down the drain. Two lessons learned here: 1.) Public schools are horribly backwards in teaching and recognizing what is actually important 2.) If I knew then what I know now I wouldn't have let her bully me. Looking back many teachers picked on kids including me because they could. Of course things are different in college and I always had my water with me. I can't imagine a day at work now without my water. I truly wish the conditions in public schools were better with nutrition and curriculum.

    May 13, 2011 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Idrus

    I never thought of a water faiotnun. That is a good idea. My dog loves to try to bite the water coming out of a hose so I expect she would like a faiotnun too.

    March 4, 2012 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. nena

    whats wrong with water???

    January 30, 2013 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • charley t

      nothing is wrong with water. It's the best healthiest drink for you. But the dumb idiotic public school staff, administrators and teachers claim that "water is a look-alike drug since it looks exactly like alcoholic drinks which violates the school rules about bringing look-alike drugs, look-alike alcohol, and look-alike tobacco producrs to school.

      July 8, 2017 at 17:33 | Report abuse |
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  19. Jessica

    My teacher actually took my water bottle away one lesson. I had it due to a medical reason, it shouldn't have been taken away in my opinion. I was not disrupting the lesson and I almost fainted about 20 minutes without it. The teacher still didn't give it back to me until the end of the school day.

    February 18, 2016 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • charley t

      Since it was for medical reasons you needed it, you should have sued the school for it.

      Of course, I know that's pretty much impossible to do when you're a student there as you're still a minor.

      Looking back, there's LOTS of things I should have sued the public schools for, but couldn't since I was still a minor at the time.

      July 8, 2017 at 17:36 | Report abuse |
  20. Lir

    One of my teachers refuses to let students get water during class. We are allowed to use the bathroom, but we get in trouble if we go to the water fountain during or instead of a bathroom break. It is difficult for dehydrated students to pay attention and there is really no point in her banning water. She actually checks to make sure we are going to the bathroom and not the fountain. she had us sign a form at the beginning ofthe year that we would follow her rules, number nine is labled "Priveledges: you have some." The first and only priveledge in the list is learning; the rest is stuff we can't do. Direct quote: "Learning -do your best to make sure it can happen for all.
    Unnecessary talking (chatter). It should never be while others are talking.
    Edible treats – if I want you to have it, I will supply it.
    Dismissal – occurs when the TEACHER is ready for it."
    These are all under "Priveledges". Also, note the punctuation is hers exactly, most of her typos I had to change because of autocorrect. how did she even manage that? She leaves typos in tests and forms, everything she writes you can count onbeing wrong somehow. Also note "TEACHER" was actually in bold but I couldn't do that.
    I know this does not all have to do with the article but I needed a place to vent. thanks for listening.

    November 30, 2018 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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