A toilet, a sink and a locking door. A bathroom by any other name is still a bathroom, so does it really matter who you are and where you are when you’re going about your business?
In an unceremonious transition, one faculty bathroom on both the first and second floor was converted over to an all-gender bathroom in the week of January 6th. This is a bathroom for anyone’s use, and provides a level privacy greater than those of other student bathrooms. Though it was simply a matter of changing out a sign, the implications of this conversion are far reaching.
The all-gender bathroom is part of the continued effort to accommodate students who do not identify with a binary gender (male or female). Oyster River School Board passed a transgender policy and procedure in 2015. The procedural aspect of the policy includes a paragraph outlining transgender students in relation to restrooms. Transgender and genderfluid students may use, “the restrooms assigned to the gender which the student consistently asserts at school,” states the ORHS policy. This involves a conversation with a faculty member to ensure this is more than just a casual declaration.
The all gender bathroom provides a “single occupancy, so no one can walk in on you, that anyone can use, no questions asked,” said ORHS counselor Jason Baker. The bathroom is for all, not just for transgender or questioning students. “When you break it down into what we are doing, it’s really a no brainer. Lets just have bathrooms that people use that don’t have a stigma attached.” Baker has spearheaded the ORHS efforts to be more inclusive and to formulate a more broad policy.
In the current national turmoil over LGBTQ rights, the Oyster River School District continues to be a model of progressive and logical policy. Parts of the transgender policy have been adopted by other districts and states in their own policy. A current supreme court case, G.G. v. Gloucester County School board, includes Oyster River’s policy as among other documents included in the case materials. “The possibility that Ruth Bader Ginsburg could read something that says Oyster River on it and it could influence her decision, that’s pretty cool,” said Baker.
Written by Dillon Mulhern