Skip to content

Gender-neutral school washrooms endorsed by Central Okanagan trustees

Student and staff gender privacy and dignity motivation for policy

The Central Okanagan Board of Education has set a goal to ensure all public schools provide equitable access to washrooms for all students and staff while respecting their privacy of gender, medical status or personal dignity.

The trustees adopted the resolution without any specific target funding and with structural limitations some schools may have to provide single-use washrooms.

Trustee Wayne Broughton said the intent is to establish a policy which the school district can work towards achieving for middle and secondary schools.

This issue first came before the planning and facilities committee on Dec. 7, 2022, for discussion and has since had input from teachers, students and parents prior to the committee final recommendation coming before the school board at Wednesday’s regular meeting.

The idea of a single-use concept means a washroom with a lockable door that allows only one occupant at a time.

A survey of schools by administrative staff revealed a cross-section of washroom scenarios – from single-use door locked to single use locked requiring a key from the principal’s office to being unlocked. Some also have specialized equipment.

The staff investigation identified 30 single-use washrooms in schools, 12 that are locked and 18 that are unlocked. There are also nine accessible washrooms with specialized equipment with eight being locked and unlocked.

Broughton said asking for a key creates issues with user privacy from a student’s perspective.

“It should not be up to a student to explain why they would need the key,” Broughton said.

He said the school district has an obligation under equity and accessibility laws for students and staff to endorse the resolution.

A staff report indicated three reasons for the washrooms being locked:

• the school wants to know who is accessing these washrooms to minimize the potential for misconduct or inappropriate use

• provide a safe place for students who aren’t comfortable using shared washrooms of either gender

• one example is the washroom had multiple stalls with one entry door and would like to provide a safe place

Trustee Julia Fraser said while this issue tends to draw attention to gender diverse students, she noted physically challenged students also need equitable access to single-use washrooms as well.

READ MORE: West Kelowna anti-‘woke’ education billboard stirs up controversy

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
Read more