Students, staff and visitors in the Limestone District School Board now have access to gender-neutral washrooms at many schools with the introduction of new signage.
The goal is to ensure that all schools have appropriate accommodations for students or staff who desire increased privacy regardless of the reason. “We want to ensure all students and staff, who have special needs, who are transgendered, or those who are questioning their gender identity, have a safe place to go the bathroom,” says Michele Babcock, Supervising Principal with responsibility for equity and inclusion. “We want everyone to feel comfortable in our schools and feel a positive sense of belonging.”
Limestone began designating single-stall and accessible single-staff washrooms as “universal” or gender-neutral in the fall of 2015 in secondary schools. Now, more than 220 bathrooms at secondary and elementary schools across the district have been re-signed. All recent new builds have at least one universal, single-stall washroom on each level.
Providing gender-neutral washrooms goes beyond creating a safe and inclusive culture. Both Bill 13: Accepting Schools Act and the Ontario Human Rights Commission indicate that transgendered people, or those who are questioning their gender identity, have the right to use whatever washroom best corresponds to their gender identify, regardless of their sex assigned at birth. For others, using a single-stall, universal washroom may better suit their needs. Single-staff and accessible single-stall washrooms are now designated as gender-neutral. “We want to ensure that everyone in our schools is respectful of others’ individual rights – that we respect our students and colleagues for who they are, not who we think they should be.”
The Board has also developed draft guidelines for supporting and protecting transgender and gender non-conforming student and staff rights. Feedback on the new guidelines is currently being sought from stakeholders.
The Board will also be investigating gender-neutral change rooms. For now, students and staff can use universal washrooms for changing purposes.