Schools Move to Single-Stall Bathrooms So Bullies Can't Congregate in the Restroom

Shady stuff happens in school bathrooms. Smoking, fights, bullying … it’s one of the only places at school groups of kids can congregate without adult supervision. And for transgender kids, the school bathroom is fraught with all sorts of other angst. And so to keep kids safer, more comfortable, and more focused on learning, one Ottowa school district is making more and more of its elementary and high schools' bathrooms gender neutral and single stall. It’s a genius idea that both parents and students love.

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You remember the horrors of the school bathroom. The gauntlet of stares. The dread you felt that while you peed that you might squeek out a little fart and the next thing you know the whole school is talking about it. Or how about carefully unwrapping your tampon so no one else would know you were on your period? Was that just me? Seriously, doesn't the thought give you that sick feeling even as an adult? As a kid, it's terrifying. A private bathroom certainly would have spared my middle-school self a whole lot of anxiety.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board understands and is doing something about it and working to make single-stall, universal, gender-neutral bathrooms available in all of its schools.

"Students that feel safe and comfortable in their learning environment are going to learn better," said the board's director of education Jennifer Adams.

For transgender students the change can mean the difference between attending school at all. Alexis Knox is a 12-year-old transgender student in the Ottowa district, who thanks to the single-stall bathrooms now feels safe to return to school after a year of homeschooling.

"For me that would have helped a lot while I was in the beginning of my transition," Knox said. "I wasn't quite ready to use the girls' washroom but I wasn't comfortable using the boys'."

And it isn’t just students who applaud the district’s move to single-stall bathrooms; parents are just as thrilled with the change. The district says it’s heard from many parents of kids with disabilities and others in their community that they want more gender-neutral bathrooms in schools.

Alexis Knox's mother, Amanda, thinks the move isn’t just about making kids more comfortable so they can focus on learning, but that it’s going to keep kids alive.

"A lot of bullying can take place inside bathrooms and a lot of kids will hold in their business until they get home," Knox said. "What the board is doing is likely going to save lives."

A hearty bravo to the OCDSB for taking a leap forward on behalf of their students. Schools are having a hard enough time keeping kids engaged in learning; if giving them a private bathroom makes them feel better ... fantastic.

Now those kids can feel free to let 'em rip in peace. That's got to feel good.

 

Image via Will & Deni McIntyre/Spaces Images/Corbis

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