The good old days of boys and girls having separate restrooms could soon become a thing of the past.
The North Kansas City school district is introducing fully gender-neutral restrooms at two new elementary schools. A few restrooms at the North Kansas City High School and sixth-grade centers will be renovated as well.
The bathrooms feature the usual open sink area, but each toilet gets its own separate, fully enclosed room with floor-to-ceiling walls and lockable doors.
The school district first tried the gender-neutral design with its Northland Innovation Center for Gifted students in 2016.
“We had such positive feedback from students, teachers, and parents,” said Rochel Daniels, executive director of organizational development for the district. “Since then we have decided to replicate the concept in any new construction.”
“Students said they like these restrooms better because they are more private,” Daniels said.
Teachers also like the new design since any teacher can stand in the common area and monitor the students. Before, a male teacher and female teacher would both have to accompany the students to the restrooms since only a female teacher could enter the female restroom and vice versa.
“This is really different. And it’s a tough issue,” said Kirk Horner, president of the design firm in charge of creating the gender-neutral restrooms. “But you got to think forward a little bit. We believe they improve safety. I do believe it is gaining momentum.”
When President Barack Obama was in office, the U.S. Department of Education issued new guidelines to public schools saying students should use restrooms consistent with their gender identity and not the gender on their birth certificates.
Gender-neutral restrooms are not required by federal or state law, however. It is up to each individual school district to decide whether or not to create these restrooms.
“If there was a law that addressed this, it would be our job to implement it,” said Chris Neale, assistant commissioner of quality schools for the Missouri State Education Department. “We trust school boards like North Kansas City to be very attuned to local constituents and to make the very best decisions with regard to their student population.”