In an effort to get ahead of any criticism, the Cowichan Valley School District has released a video to explain the concept of the gender neutral “Washrooms for Everybody” program that is planned for its new Cowichan Secondary School, which is currently under construction.
The school district’s communications director Mike Russell said the district is trying to be proactive with the release of the video, and address any concerns that may crop up in the community with the new washroom concept, which does away with the traditional separate bathrooms for male and female students in favour of private toilet stalls around a shared sink area in a gender neutral room.
In the video, Russell said the district has in the past seen that discriminatory policies and practices have adversely impacted the mental health and development of students, and create life-long challenges for them.
“It’s for this reason, and many more, that new schools are being designed to serve students of all genders, including having washrooms designed for everybody,” he said.
“Just like a single washroom in a school hallway, these newly designed washrooms can be used by anyone, with a focus on safety, privacy and dignity. The washrooms provide a welcome space for every student and strive to provide safety and privacy for all users.”
Russell said that with floor-to-ceiling doors on each individual bathroom stall and fixtures that meet accessibility codes, Washrooms for Everybody fosters the independence of every student.
He said increased privacy in toilets make them more comfortable to use, and they also provide dignity for individual students’ health needs, while openness and connection in the washrooms’ central areas around sinks increase safety.
In addition to the change away from binary male/female bathrooms, Russell said that as well as the standard changing rooms for males and females in the new school, there will also be a third “universal” change room that can be used by all students.
There has already been some concern expressed by a few community members about the universal change room concept.
Russell said the universal change room will be similar in design to the Washrooms for Everybody in that there will be separate changing stalls with floor-to-ceiling doors.
“Washrooms for Everybody create a school environment that assures all students have the the opportunity to be healthy, happy and able to pursue their goals, regardless of gender or ability,” Russell said.
“They create a better future for us all.”