It can be challenging to ensure student safety in school bathrooms. Supervision is difficult while still maintaining student privacy. Some children are too anxious to go to the bathroom all day to the very real detriment of their physical health. Also, even in elementary schools, not all students are comfortable with their gender identity. This is widely recognized as many school districts have policies and procedures to address safety and gender identity issues for their students and staff. School District No. 46 (Sunshine Coast) recognized an opportunity to address some of these issues directly as we planned and built our new Gibsons Elementary School.

IMG_6395Gender-free bathrooms are common in our lives and always have been. Our household bathrooms have never had male and female signs on them. In our homes we automatically replace signs with respect and reasonable procedures to ensure privacy and comfort. In designing our new school we knew we could replicate this concept for the benefit of students’ physical and mental health.

IMG_6397Students access private, well-constructed toilet stalls and then wash up in a communal circular wash basin that is comfortably visible from the hallway.

The school has been open to students for four months now. Students don’t really talk about their school bathrooms; the bathrooms are not different from home, there is little to talk about.

The district is very pleased that our students are safer and more comfortable.IMG_6396Designing a school bathroom in this way erases any concerns students might experience. Bullying would be very difficult and gender is a non-issue.

When we take proactive measures to ensure our students’ mental and physical health, they are free to focus on their learning and simply enjoy being a student.

*Special thank you to Gibsons Elementary School Principal Deborah Luporini for initiating and following through on this initiative during the building process. Further appreciation is due to our very supportive Board of Education for its endorsement of gender-neutral washrooms.