Forecaster Forum: 'No pressure, judgment, assumptions' in gender-neutral school bathrooms

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Portland’s Casco Bay High School works actively to foster an inclusive, welcoming environment.

Last spring and summer, through a student-led initiative, the school established two gender-neutral, multiperson bathrooms on its second floor in order to provide appropriate facilities for all students and to align with the district’s new gender-inclusive policies.

The intention behind creating gender-neutral restrooms is to ensure the district’s policies reflect the needs of the student body, which includes gender-expansive individuals.

Principal Derek Pierce said “we are proud to be in a school district that is committed to being safe and welcoming for all students, and our mix of gender-neutral and gender-specific bathrooms is one small, but important part of that.” 

When the changes were announced at Casco Bay’s all-school meeting, the assembly erupted in cheers. Since the new policy was enacted, there has been little to no student pushback.

The school also adapted the facilities to promote student privacy and respect the diversity of beliefs. Bathroom stall walls were extended, and stalls were put around urinals. However, along with the new gender-inclusive bathrooms on the second floor, Casco Bay has gender-specific bathrooms on the third and first floors, giving every student the right to choose the facility that serves them best.

The student body and administration recognize the importance of providing gender-specific restrooms in order to respect the religious beliefs and personal preferences of students and families. As one of the student-devised guidelines makes clear, there’s “no pressure, judgment, or assumptions” attached to a student’s choice of bathroom.

While one of the goals of this policy is to create a safer environment for gender-expansive individuals, the intention is to foster support for all students.

After all, these bathrooms are just that: normal bathrooms. Students recognize this is a community space and obviously not a place for sexual activities. It is a centrally located facility that everyone uses, including teachers, visitors, and children.

While sexual assault is, unfortunately, an ever-present issue across the United States, according to CNN, sexual assaults do not increase in gender-neutral restrooms. At Casco Bay, Pierce has said, this has proven true: “Students have used the gender-neutral bathrooms appropriately, and the transition has been without incident.”

Casco Bay is committed to equity for all its students. These policies are an example of that value being put into action. With the successful implementation of the school’s gender-neutral restrooms, Casco Bay hopes to inspire other schools to promote equality.

In the words of senior Althea Kastelic, “At our school, the motto is ‘be smart to do good,’ and as students, we know that the implementation of gender-neutral bathrooms is a step forward on the path to a more equal world.”

Tiana Urey, Martha Thompson and Sophie Szatkowski are seniors at Casco Bay High School in Portland. Urey is also a student representative to the Portland School Board. This is their response to columnist John Balentine’s January column, “Grant us relief from co-ed bathrooms.”