Skip To ContentSkip To Content
    Updated Gender Neutral Bathroom Information
    Posted on 03/25/2019
    March 22, 2019

    Dear Washington Middle School Families,

    During the past week, I received feedback from some members of our school community about the change of location on our gender-neutral bathroom. I am writing to provide additional details in the hopes of providing increased clarity about the reasons for the change.

    Last school year the decision was made to make one of our existing girls’ bathrooms gender-neutral. While that decision was intended to increase identity safety, during this course of the school year we became aware of unintended consequences, including:
    • The lack of privacy enhancements in the gender-neutral bathroom, such as extended stall doors and walls around toilets, made it impossible to ensure student privacy. I am aware of several instances of harassment and privacy violations that have taken place in the gender-neutral bathroom.
    • Repurposing a female-only bathroom created inequity for students who prefer a single-sex restroom. There are currently more male-only toilets than female only toilets.

    Providing a safe learning environment free from physical or verbal harassment for all students is our shared priority. After seeking council from students, staff and parents, it is clear that there is no single optimal solution to the problem. While we would like to provide a multi-stall gender-neutral bathroom that ensures privacy and safety, there is simply not a way to make this happen in the short term.

    As a result, in my efforts to safeguard student safety, starting last Monday, the single-toilet bathroom in the counseling office was repurposed as a gender-neutral bathroom which is open to all students. To ensure a smooth transition, school leaders and counselors made enhancements to the bathroom, and we are taking measures to ensure that the bathroom is available to, and used by, all members of our school to prevent any possible stigma students may feel about using it.

    Why can’t students use all bathroom facilities during the day?
    We simply do not have enough staff to properly supervise our smaller student population in our large building. Ensuring student safety necessitates that some areas of the building, including bathrooms in the far back side of the school, are off limits to students at various times of the day.

    Can’t volunteers assist with supervision?
    We appreciate our parent volunteers. But, asking our volunteers to monitor student safety in the public areas such as bathrooms requires consistency, strong student relationships, and training that is above and beyond what we would expect of our volunteers. It is a responsibility we cannot, unfortunately, assign to volunteers and must be staffed with WMS employees.

    Won’t a single-stall gender-neutral bathroom create additional barriers to identify safety?
    We are working pro-actively to ensure that all students have access to restroom facilities that are consistent with their gender identity and provide them with the privacy and safety they deserve. Toward this end, we have proactively messaged to students and staff that the gender-neutral bathroom is for the use of all (and not just gender diverse students).

    Is there time for students to access the gender-neutral bathroom during passing periods?
    In the event that students who use the gender-neutral restroom need to be late to class, they will be issued a pass from a counselor to excuse their tardy.

    Why make the change now?
    Given that any possibility of making optimal restroom improvements is a long-term project, and that our efforts to date to mitigate safety issues in the gender-neutral bathroom have not resulted in the safety that all of us want for our students, it is necessary that we act now.

    Is this a permanent change?
    I have been working with students, parents and school and district staff to create a responsive solution on behalf of all students that allows for privacy and access to bathrooms, while at the same time providing adequate adult supervision of students on our large campus. Our collaboration with the student Gender Sexuality Alliance and the Student Equity Team will continue in the coming months, and will continue to partner with parents and Seattle Public Schools to make updates to restroom facilities; work toward providing a safe, multi-stall gender neutral bathroom; and to ensure that our restrooms continue to be safe, accessible and appropriately supervised.

    Thank you for your partnership in these efforts.

    Sincerely,

    Emily Butler Ginolfi