Gender Neutral Bathroom Is Step Towards Equality at RHS

In the RHS Cafeteria hallway, a supply closet now functions as a gender-neutral bathroom.

Oona Shain

In the RHS Cafeteria hallway, a supply closet now functions as a gender-neutral bathroom.

Lulu Hart, Reporter, Writer

What was once a dusty storage room for sports jerseys is now a step forward in the well-being of Rhinebeck students.  

The gender neutral bathroom recently installed between the RHS gym and the 120-30 wing, was put in place because of student requests and is monitored by a professional staff member to limit the space to one person as a COVID precaution.

Restrooms in the U.S. have always been required to accommodate differently-abled people, but in the past few years there have been new requirements to accommodate non-binary, questioning, and transgender people. 

RHS Principal, Dr. Davenport feels that this gender neutral restroom is a required installment, regardless of COVID. 

“If the student requests had been before COVID or without COVID, it would have been provided”, he claimed. He was happy to make those changes to the space, and is making sure that it will stay a gender neutral restroom in the future. 

Although there are concerns because it is the school’s first single use bathroom and cannot be locked on the inside, Dr. D insisted that RHS will keep it. 

Emily Davison, Director of Special Services, as well as originator of Equity Group and chairperson of the Social and Emotional Wellness Committee, commented about the new bathroom, saying that just having one in the high school building is not enough. According to Davison, there needs to be a gender neutral restroom in BMS and CLS. 

“We shouldn’t have to wait until someone requests it, we should be able to provide it no matter who needs it,” she added. 

“Federal Court Rules that Transgender Students Must Be Allowed to Use Bathrooms that Match Their Gender, an article by Li Cohen of CBS News affirmed Davison’s claim.   “The solution here is not a new or radical concept: all schools should have private, gender-neutral bathrooms for any students to use,” states Cohen.

Mary Lehan, a member of the professional staff at RCSD, has stated that the idea of a gender neutral restroom without proper monitoring makes her a bit uncomfortable. 

“I would feel uncomfortable if a man walked in when I was in the bathroom,” Lehan stated. 

She noted that on a field trip to Bard College, an institution that provides only gender neutral facilities, students and teachers of different genders entered and she felt a bit distressed, claiming she “didn’t like it very much.”

However, she’s aware and respects that young people might feel differently. Ms. Lehan wants students to feel comfortable and safe, no matter how that is achieved. 

Providing this new facility also falls under two of the Board of Education’s list of priorities for the 2020-2021 school year: Equity and Social-Emotional Well-Being. 

“…All schools should have private, gender-neutral bathrooms for any students to use, in the same, normal way that homes have bathrooms for guests to use and many restaurants have bathrooms that are not labeled for the sexes”, according to GLSEN, an organization working to end discrimination and promote LGBT cultural inclusion and awareness in K-12 schools. 

This restroom is a great first step for RHS, but this basic right to comfort needs to be widespread and made available to every student in Rhinebeck schools.