About a dozen Island schools now have gender-neutral washrooms
'A school is a reflection of society, and in society you see gender-neutral washrooms'
About a dozen Island schools now have gender-neutral washrooms, which any student of any gender can use, the P.E.I. Public Schools Branch has confirmed.
The number is growing, with at least one new washroom implemented this school year.
"A school is a reflection of society, and in society you see gender-neutral washrooms. They're very prevalent. They're in public places right now, and a school is a public place," said Norbert Carpenter, the principal of Montague Consolidated. The elementary school has had a gender-neutral washroom since last year.
It's a way of keeping up with the times, explained Carpenter.
"We're aware of issues that come up in our schools where students may not feel comfortable identifying with one washroom or another, so we do have a gender-neutral washroom that anyone is welcome to use," he said.
Requests from students
Gender-neutral washrooms are often implemented at the request of a student or their families on behalf of the student.
"Sometimes that's for a reason [like] they may have had an aggressive experience in a common washroom, or they may have been a victim of an assault or they're just not comfortable. Or it could be a student who is transgender, and if that's the case, then we explore not just washrooms, but what do they need in the building in order to feel safe," said Julia Gaudet, director of student services with the P.E.I. Public Schools Branch.
"We're not getting huge amounts of requests, but we are getting requests," she explained.
These gender-neutral washrooms offer a second option for transgender students. While they are welcome to use whichever washroom they identify with, not everyone feels comfortable in the multi-stall facilities, said Gaudet.
Most gender-neutral washrooms are single-stalls, but those washrooms aren't just for transgender students — they're for anyone who would like to use them.
Number expected to grow
It's a matter of inclusion, said Gaudet. She also expects the number of gender-neutral washrooms to keep growing.
She said she hopes in the future, that whenever school renovations happen, having some gender-neutral single-stall washrooms will be a consideration.
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With files from Sarah MacMillan