Gender-Neutral Bathrooms Debut in Corvallis School District
Following the passing of a nearly $2 million bond measure in 2018, construction and renovations within the Corvallis School District has made progress ahead of schedule.
“We were talking about the project being done in 2024, and it seemed so far away,” Jennifer Richmond, an oversight committee member, back in November of last year. Richmond added that the Corvallis School district is “so well run.”
One groundbreaking aspect of this construction plan was implementing new, inclusive gender-neutral restrooms into several schools within the district, including Lincoln, Garfield, and Cheldelin.
“Separate boys and girls rooms have been replaced with flow-through spaces with universal hand-washing stations and fully-enclosed, single-user toilet rooms, at least one being handicap accessible, in place of stalls,” the Albany DH article read.
“Our Board Member at the time, Judy Ball, spotted it in the news and was like, ‘Hey — We should do this,’” Adams said. “She then handed off the idea to the superintendent, who immediately called the Kansas City superintendent and was like, ‘Hey, how’s this working out?’ and it turns out, it was working out really well.”
The same district originally made history when a transgender Oak Park High School student became Homecoming Queen in 2015.
Following suit, the Corvallis School Board passed the “Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students — Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity” policy in December of 2018 that allows all students to use facilities in correlation with their gender identities.
“They [the restrooms] are individual, exclusive stalls, so there’s no space in between them…they’re completely private,” Adams said.
He added that these restrooms are “just like using the bathroom at home”, where all identities often use the same one.
Safety was put at the forefront of these designs during construction, as the restrooms are designed to be open and easily supervised.
“Staff can be right there with the kiddos when they’re coming out of the stalls to wash their hands,” Adams said. “I mean, you have complete supervision.” He added that if something were to happen while a child was in one of the stalls, a staff member right outside and would be able to help quickly.
There is at least one handicap-accessible stall as well, which conveniently has its own sink. According to Adams, sink placement was key for cultural inclusivity as well.
“Board Chair Sami Al-Abdrabbuh is Muslim, and he surfaced a really important component to this,” said Adams. “Hand and foot washing is important in the Muslim culture…so kids can attend to that if they have a cultural need for it…which really makes this so inclusive. Adams continued that this change allow kids to “just be kids, and who they are in this space.”
Despite community support for this new restroom format, a few parents have taken to social media and expressed concerns regarding the safety and necessity of the progressive design. However, Adams said that, despite these negative comments, the school board has not received one negative email or complaint regarding the change so far.
When asked how he would respond to a parent who has concerns regarding these restrooms, Adams replied, “The reason we went with this design is that we heard from Kansas City, that they saw a reduction of incidents in bathrooms, that this design was more safe, it afforded more privacy for students, and that we have had the same experience.”
Adams mentioned that gender-inclusive restrooms like these are here to stay, and will likely be the design used in Corvallis high schools moving forward as well.