Recently, faculty and staff in a Massachusetts public school district approached their principal about creating all-gender restrooms for students. But with old buildings and a small budget, creating new bathrooms wasn't an option.
Her solution? Proposing to the district administration that the school's four gendered staff/faculty bathrooms become all-gender staff AND student bathrooms.
The principal brought up the issue with the district administration, which she said was a bit controversial at first. Eventually, the request was approved district-wide. The old "Men's" and "Women's" signs were removed, and new, purple, "All-Gender Restroom" signs were put up in their place. And, with them, an invitation: Any student (grade K-5) who wanted to could use the formerly staff-only single-stall bathrooms.
It's been several months since the new signs went up. Many students have opted to use the newly available bathrooms, and several have reported to their teachers that they are relieved to have a safer option. Want more reasons that this simple idea can change your school's culture?
1). (The obvious one): Gender-nonconforming kids feel safer.
All of our students deserve to feel safe, happy, and comfortable.One trans identified fifth grader in the aforementioned school district told their teacher, "It's so much nicer to not have to use the boys' bathroom. It felt uncomfortable using the stalls instead of the urinals." Another fifth grader, who is experimenting with using they/them/theirs pronouns, is now exclusively using the single-stall bathrooms.
2). Kids who menstruate have a safe space to use.
For many kids, menstruation is happening earlier, at 8-11 years old. Using products like pads, tampons, and reusable cups/pads in public restrooms can be challenging for trans* and cis kids alike. For some kids, the sound of crinkling wrappers can make them self-conscious. It can also be awkward to exit the stall in order to dispose of used products. Some students simply take longer, and feel more at ease if they're alone.
3). It's healthier.
Plenty of kids maintain a fear or discomfort of using the restroom in public, and "hold it" all day long. Doing this too often can cause physical pain and discomfort, and may make students unable to focus at school. Kids will feel better and stay physically healthier if they have a more comfortable, less-vulnerable restroom option.
4). Privacy. Period.
Kids have been known to - gasp! - play around in multi-stall restrooms. They'll chat with each other, throw notes over the stalls, or peek under stall doors. With single-stall options, kids won't feel anxious that their privacy will be invaded. They can lock the door behind them, and breathe a sigh of relief.
5). There is more turnover.
Instead of having to wait until the multi-stall bathroom is empty, or waiting outside a single-stall bathroom with the sign that best reflects your gender marker, anyone can use any restroom. The result? Fewer lines and happier kids (and adults!)
No matter your gender, all-gender single-stall restrooms benefit everyone. Wondering how you can implement this idea in your own school? Please contact us!