New Gender Neutral Bathroom to Open in SPS High School

 Update: the "Dear Colleague" letter from the Department of Justice and Department of Education on this topic that was sent to districts today.

I will note that there is a section on names/pronouns.  Personally, I would hope there would be some allowance of understanding for staff members who may sometimes err on this point.  Even the best efforts by human beings can fall short when adults fall back onto habits learned decades ago.   

There was a Jan. 2016 article in the NY Times about using new pronouns for non-gendered students.

end of update

From district Communications:

Nearly half of Seattle Public Schools’ high schools already have gender neutral bathrooms, and another will open its doors next week at Nathan Hale. 

At all 98 district schools, non-conforming students are accommodated and provided access to a restroom facility. SPS is proud to have anti-discrimination policies in place. Superintendent Procedure 3210SP.C was adopted in December 2012 to ensure all students feel safe and included.


Where:   Nathan Hale High School

               10750 30th Ave NE

               Seattle, WA 98125


When:    Tuesday, May 17, 2016

              9:15 a.m.

Who:Gender Awareness Group and Pride Club students (including student who had concept for the bathroom as part of his senior action project)


Charlie Mas said…
The NOVA Project has had gender neutral bathrooms for years.
Catherine said…
Charlie... over a decade... because they were there before my son toured. And it's been that long!
Anonymous said…
This article doesn't accurately portray what this directive actually does: opens up every girls' bathroom and every girls' locker room in every public elementary, middle and high school to trans girls - who have male genitalia. For girls, including those who have been victims of sexual assault, every bathroom or locker room might have someone in it with male genitals.

Given that all kids are immature and irresponsible at times, there's a good chance that that little girl might want to show her "special parts" to the other girls in the bathroom, or...

This directive also includes housing arrangements so trans girls with male genitals will share a hotel room on overnight school trips (5th grade trips, 8th grade music trips, high school trips) with other girls, whether they like it or not.

This violates everything we know to do to keep kids safe and opens the door for all sorts of dangers. Also, it takes away every "safe space" for girls who want and deserve bodily privacy.

Anonymous said…
I've used women's bathrooms for 45 years, and no one's ever shown me any parts.

Not worried about anyone showing my daughter anything in the school bathroom. And my kids aren't worried at all - I asked. Just not a big deal. Please don't pass your baseless fear on to children.

I'd really rather all the angst was invested in making school bathrooms CLEANER - my kids don't like to use them b/c they're so dirty, overflowing garbage, spitballs all over the ceiling, etc. And that's the girl's room.

So - it's not what's in the pants, ok?

-not worried
Anonymous said…
You know what kids and teens hate? Being different from their peers. How many stories have we heard over the years of kids being afraid to change/shower publicly because they might get teased about some tiny difference? So no, I don't expect there will be much showing of parts. Remember you're talking about children, not aliens.

seattle citizen said…
Humans have been going to the bathroom and, yes, bathing and even sleeping in proximity to one another since before we were humans. If there are problems, those are the problems of those of us who would assault another human (physically, or "showing their special parts") and the assault is the issue, not the proximity.
Teach kids to respect each other.
We might benefit from losing the puritanical always associating body parts with sex. Most of the time a breast is just a breast, a penis just a penis.
Anonymous said…
To add to the discussion:

The actual "Dear Colleague" letter:

And a link with more detail about what is meant by "significant guidance"

-a reader
It's not an article; it is a letter from the government.

I'm not going to jump on Momof2 because I think there are valid concerns. This is a more open brave new world and I think if schools have to accommodate transchildren, they also have to be sensitive (and helpful) to parents who have concerns. They also should include guidance on talking to your children, especially elementary children, about why a child might have been a girl in 1st grade but is now a boy -possibly with a different name - in 2nd grade. Kids don't always switch gears that easily.

But I agree about the showers. PE classes don't even require showers now. As for sports, I think any kid who is transgendered is likely to take great care because of the possible teasing/harassment from students who may act out. I can see if a girl who is now identifying as a boy was on the football team, it could be tricky.

We are already see pushback in some states like Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas. Schools are considered a local control entity and that does present a problem to the Obama administration.

A Reader, thanks for the links; I accidentally left the "Dear Colleague" link out.
Anonymous said…
Mom of 2:

I won't dismiss or seek to invalidate your concerns, but I will say this: Having raised a daughter (a proud Nathan Hale graduate, by the way), I can assure you that it is possible, and desirable, to teach our children to be careful without being fearful.

-- Ivan Weiss
Anonymous said…
It's important to note the "Dear Colleague" letter is offering the administration's interpretation and guidance on Title IX, but courts may have a different interpretation. The directive does not carry the force of law. States can choose to follow the directive, like WA, or choose to ignore the directive, like TX. The video posted on an earlier thread, about victims of abuse, does give you pause.

-a reader
seattle citizen said…
I hope I didn't come across as attacking mom of 2; that wasn't my intent. My apologies if it came across that way.
And I'd add that my comments reflect an ideal, and we aren't near that yet, though we are at least moving in what I believe is a positive direction. It'll take some time to change things, and yes, sensitivity is helpful.
z said…
Here's a question to ponder, for context.

Why do we have gender-specific bathrooms in our society?

Yes, this question is meant to provoke a bit, but I think it's relevant.
Anonymous said…
In Europe their are many places where there is only one bathroom, some with all stalls, some with a stall and a urinal.

I do agree that their are boys who will try and use this to be funny, I don't know how the principal will decide if they are of a certain gender. The kids themselves report less than 50% of them identify as purely hetero or homo sexual. It's called pansexualism and it's talked about at local high schools.

Anonymous said…
Why do we have gender-specific bathrooms in our society?

Do we actually have gender-specific bathrooms? Or sex-specific? Or a mixture of the two?


z said…
My bad, I meant sex-specific bathrooms. That is very clearly the norm in the U.S.

My question is: Why?

Getting to the root of that question is key to understanding how to proceed with edge cases.

Yes, I said edge cases. Kim, I flat out don't believe that more than 50% of kids identify as something other than hetero or homo sexual. I have 2 high schoolers, and know multiple transgender kids. Tolerant of? Yes. Identify as? Not. Even. Close.
Anonymous said…
This is a great discussion.

I do think it is worth noting the difference between sex (physical characteristics) and gender (internal sense of being female, or male, or both, or neither). Acknowledging and understanding this distinction is an important step.

Also, gender identity is not the same thing as sexual orientation (gay, straight, bisexual).

As to the specific question of how the principal will decide if they are of a certain gender, SPS District policy pretty clearly says that "A student should be provided access to a restroom facility that corresponds to the gender identity the student consistently asserts at school."

Additionally, acknowledging concerns about a 'safe space', the SPS District policy is also clear - "Further, all students - transgender or not - who have a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason, should be provided access to an alternative restroom (e.g. staff restroom or health office restroom). This allows students who may feel uncomfortable sharing the facility with the transgender student(s) the option to make use of a separate restroom and have their concerns addressed without stigmatizing any individual student."

I do not often go to bat for District policies, but in this instance the policy is clear, thoughtful and admirable.

Anonymous said…
Hale cheer has been dealing with this for a number of years. The cheerleaders have been nothing but accepting and kind in relating to their fellow cheerleader going through this process. The kids have led the way. They have gone to camp every summer and the cheerleader has been able to stay with the group they identify with. Hale teaches to be inclusive of all kids and the cheerleaders have really supported this. I was surprised that Hale did not have a gender neutral bathroom yet but I am happy they will have one next Tuesday.

Anonymous said…
Going forward, will new SPS schools be constructed consistent with the directive? How will restrooms and locker rooms be designed?

Charlie Mas said…
Let's remember that the basis for opposition to the rule has nothing to do with the transgender students. The opposition is based in the hypothetical possibility of a straight male student falsely claiming female gender identity as a defense for entering the girls bathroom for voyeuristic purposes (or worse). I'm confident that this concern can be addressed in a way that still allows all students to use the bathroom of their gender identity. Also, since there's not much, if any, nudity outside the stalls of a bathroom that shouldn't be a problem for anyone.

The locker rooms are another story. There is a lot of public nudity in a locker room while changing and especially in the showers.

When I was in high school we had a boys locker room and a girls locker room. In addition there were private spaces in coach's offices within the locker rooms which, I believe, included toilet and shower facilities. Our coaches did not shower with the teams. I don't think it would be too hard to make arrangements for students with a legitimate need for privacy to use the facilities in the coach's offices. It can be done without any construction work. There could be a number of legitimate reasons that a student would need privacy in a locker room. Being transgender is only one of them.

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