Missouri school district embraces gender-neutral bathrooms
NORTH KANSAS CITY (AP) — A Kansas City-area school district that garnered national attention when a transgender student was crowned homecoming queen in 2015 has installed gender-neutral restrooms at two new elementary schools and in some existing locations.
The individual bathroom stalls at Rising Hill Elementary and Northview Elementary in the North Kansas City School District two new elementary schools are enclosed with floor-to-ceiling walls and lockable doors, the Kansas City Star reported. The restrooms still have an open alcove area with a common trough sink. Both male and female symbols adorn the same sign on the wall outside the bathrooms.
The elementary schools opened Wednesday. The district also used a gender-neutral design in renovated bathrooms at two sixth-grade centers and at North Kansas City High School.
The district first tried the design at its Northland Innovation Center for gifted students in 2016, a year after one of the district's four high schools, Oak Park High, crowned a transgender student as homecoming queen.
"We had such positive feedback from students, teachers and parents," said Rochel Daniels, the district's executive director of organizational development. "Since then we have decided to replicate the concept in any new construction."
Daniels said the bathroom design was suggested by a district team comprised of parents and students.
"Students said they like these restrooms better because they are more private," Daniels said.
She also said teachers can better monitor students because they can stand in the common area while the bathrooms are in use.
While the district doesn't have a policy governing gender-neutral restroom, "we do have a policy about non-discrimination," Daniels said.
"The restrooms became a point where we can provide for all students. The design was a decision based on privacy, safety and security for all students."
Melanie Austin, whose first-grade daughter attends Crestview Elementary and takes classes at the Northland Innovation Center, supports the gender-neutral concept.
"You just don't know what gender a kid might identify as," Austin said. "This helps everyone to feel comfortable, accepted."