Inside: Washrooms/Locker Rooms

Sept. 1, 2002
Cleaner facilities; Private restrooms criticized; Court rules on bathroom access


The Los Angeles school system has a hotline for people to report problems with washrooms in the district.

But earlier this year, protesters didn't need the hotline to lodge their complaints about seven bathrooms being installed in the district's new administrative headquarters. As part of the renovation of the 29-story former bank building near downtown Los Angeles, workers are putting in private bathrooms in the offices of each of the seven school board members.

When that fact came to light earlier this year, it drew protests from the teachers union, students and parents who felt such amenities were inappropriate at a time when the district was having to reduce its budget and many schools had inadequate bathroom facilities.

Board president Caprice Young told the Los Angeles Times that the bathrooms were not needed and were installed without consulting her, but by the time she learned about them, it was too late to halt construction.


A federal appeals court has ruled that the Minneapolis school district met its legal obligation by providing alternative bathroom options to a female teacher who did not want to use the same facilities as a male-to-female transgendered employee.

Carla Cruzan, a teacher at Southwest High School, had argued that allowing transgendered library employee Debra Davis to use the women's bathroom violated Cruzan's religious freedom and created a hostile workplace. The school gave Cruzan access to several other bathrooms, including single-person facilities and other women's bathrooms. Cruzan wanted the court to prevent Davis from using the women's restrooms at Southwest.

A three-court panel upheld the bathroom policy in Minneapolis. “The school district's policy was not directed at Cruzan, and Cruzan had convenient access to a number of restrooms other than the one Davis used,” the court said. “Given the totality of the circumstances, we conclude a reasonable person would not have found the work environment hostile or abusive.”

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS IN CALIFORNIA FOR SCHOOL FACILITIES BUILT AFTER 1994Grade level Male Female Kindergarten ▪ 1 toilet serves 1-20
▪ 2 toilets serve 21-50
▪ more than 50, add 1 toilet for every 50 people ▪ Same as for boys Elementary ▪ 1 urinal for 75-plus
▪ 1 toilet for 30 ▪ 1 toilet for 25 Secondary ▪ 1 urinal for 35-plus
▪ 1 toilet for 40 ▪ 1 toilet for 30 Staff ▪ 1 toilet serves 1-15
▪ 2 toilets serve 16-35
▪ 3 toilets serve 36-55 ▪ 1 toilet serves 1-15
▪ 2 toilets serve 16-35
▪ 3 toilets serve 36-55


Throughout the corridors of the nation's schools, Tom Keating says, are hundreds of thousands of bathrooms that are just plain nasty. Broken fixtures, floors and walls crawling with germs, graffiti-covered partitions and inadequate supplies are commonplace.

“These are not nice places,” says Keating, a former teacher and school board member. “Forty percent of students say they avoid using their school restrooms all day long.”

From an outpost in Decatur, Ga., Keating has taken on school bathrooms as his personal crusade. Keating created Project CLEAN (Citizens, Learners and Educators Against Neglect) to combat the problem of unsanitary and unsafe school washrooms. The organization has resource guides to help schools improve the conditions in their restrooms. It can work with a school community to create a restroom improvement plan — and make sure everyone involved adheres to the plan.

Keating's efforts are aimed at persuading all those with a stake in bathroom cleanliness to make maintenance and care a higher priority.

“We're trying to get schools to do what they should be doing already,” says Keating.

Another key is convincing students that they have a responsibility to keep bathrooms safe and clean.

For more information about Project CLEAN, go to

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