Amid calls from students for restroom accommodations for transgender students, the Worcester, Mass., school department says the new South High Community School under construction will be outfittted with several gender-neutral bathrooms.
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that the announcement responds to a push from students to have gender-neutral bathrooms included in all newly built schools in the city. An online petition started by high school and college students that has been signed by more than 500 people asks the school department to have at least one single-stall, all-gender bathroom at every new school building.
The replacement for Doherty Memorial High School, which is much earlier in the planning process than South High and thus does not have a design yet, also will have gender neutral restrooms, Superintendent Maureen Binienda says.
The new South High will have a gender-neutral bathroom on each floor, as well as another two inside the fieldhouse next door. The new facility is scheduled to open in 2021.
The inclusion of gender neutral toilets in the South High and Doherty building plans reflects a recent trend in society to better accommodate transgender people, whom those facilities are intended to help the most.
In a presentation on the issue at a recent School Committee meeting, committee member Dante Comparetto said transgender people could even face violent reprisal for entering traditionally gendered bathrooms — a situation that gender-neutral bathrooms are designed to eliminate.
Some of the students involved in that effort were also pleased to hear the news, including Xio Alvarado, a sophomore at Claremont Academy who is transgender. Alvarado said Claremont recently converted a faculty bathroom for use as a de facto gender neutral bathroom, but before that, he often would just avoid using the bathroom at school.
“It’s a very difficult choice. I can’t really go into the female bathroom, since I have a more male, masculine appearance,” he said. But he also feels unwelcome in the boys’ bathroom. “It’s just awkward.”
The ideal outcome, he added, would be for the district to install a gender-neutral bathroom at all schools, not just new ones.