Century students push for more gender neutral bathrooms in school
(ABC 6 News) – This year was the first full school year at Century High School with a specified gender neutral bathroom that is not either in the nurse’s office or the main office.
"Even though using the restroom you think of as little, all of the little things add up. First, the issue was students that don’t need to use it and have full and safe access to just regular gendered bathrooms were going in there," Cameron Johnson, president of Century’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club, said.
Century GSA is working with Principal Nate Walbruch and Rochester Public Schools to get more gender neutral bathrooms within the school.
"We want to continue saying ‘What is it that we can do to make this as safe and secure as possible for everybody?’" Walbruch said.
Staff and students alike said the biggest issue at hand is the travel time from class on one side of the building to the bathroom on the other side.
"It has been a really wonderful thing but there have been some issues," Sarah Ryan, an advisor for Century’s GSA, said.
A majority of students have to walk five or more minutes from class to use the gender neutral bathroom, get the key, possibly wait in line and then walk five more minutes back to class. This takes away from learning time in the classroom.
"I feel like it would be more convenient to have another one and more supporting," freshman Isabella Fischer said.
Students feel a sense of security using the gender neutral bathroom.
"I had to use the girl’s bathroom but that felt really weird so I’d try to go during the middle of class when no one was there. The gender neutral bathroom has helped me feel a lot more safe," senior CJ Schlotthauer said.
"I get harassed quite often in the men’s bathroom. Sometimes I just avoid bathrooms that have people in them at all," student Malcolm Fischer said.
Gender neutral bathrooms are mostly in the newer schools in the district that have been built such as Overland Elementary and Dakota Middle schools but were not built in the older schools like Century High School.
Students who use the one bathroom said they have met enough people where they see more bathrooms would be beneficial.
"We have to listen to the students and then we have to adjust as adults. We have to adjust our practice and what we’re doing so that we don’t potentially cause any more harm to any more students going forward," Will Ruffin II, Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for RPS, said.
Ruffin II said that RPS is talking about staff development and education for being a district employee. He said gender neutral bathrooms and gender identity itself will definitely be a piece of professional development in the near future for all RPS staff.