Kitchener-Waterloo·Audio

New washroom policy for transgender students at region's public schools

The Waterloo Region District School Board has rolled out a new policy for transgender students and staff that will allow them to use the washroom or changeroom of the gender with which they identify.

Aim is to make students and staff feel safe, superintendent says

Waterloo Region District School Board has rolled out a new policy that will allow transgender students and staff to use the washroom of the gender with which they identify. (CBC)

A new policy that allows transgender students and staff to use the washroom or changeroom of the gender they identify with is one step in helping them feel safe in their school, a public school board administrator says.

Peter Rubenschuh is a superintendent with the Waterloo Region District School Board and his portfolio covers safe schools. He said the new policy, which was rolled out last week, is a way to help students feel more comfortable.

"We recognize who they are and then they can select a washroom that is of preference for them," he told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Tuesday.

As part of the policy, students and staff are asked to put in writing if they wish to be identified as a different gender.

"We want to recognize who the student is but at the same time we also want to make sure that we're using the preferred pronouns ... that we're making appropriate references, that the student is in fact comfortable and ready to be identified," Rubenschuh said.

'Overwhelmingly positive' response

CBC K-W received an email from a citizen who said he was concerned by the new policy.

"A grade nine boy identifying as a girl can now choose to change in a room of girls without regard to those girls' claim of privacy," the man wrote.

"The Waterloo Region District School Board is quietly rolling out this change and hoping no one in Waterloo region will notice. Without public input, discussion or approval, the WRDSB is making changes that many in the community will find controversial."

Rubenschuh said the policy review has been ongoing for about two years and consultations have included those within the school board and community groups.

He added they are not the first to make a change – Peel District School Board announced in September it would be adding gender-neutral bathrooms to all high schools – and their old policy went against the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Rubenschuh said the response from students and staff has been "overwhelmingly positive."

Listen to the interview with Peter Rubenschuh:

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