“Everyone should be able to be who they want to be.” – San Marin High School Student
For the last two years, youth in Novato have been working with students and school administration on improving their school climate. As part of their research last year, the Friday Night Live chapter at San Marin High School, the Students for Social Justice Club (SSJ), surveyed the student body on ways to improve school community. The students surveyed almost 300 students and found that over 70% of students either supported or had no opinion on gender-neutral restrooms. The amount of support for the gender-neutral restrooms surprised many students and helped build the case for the construction of gender-neutral restrooms on campus.
Gender-neutral restrooms are increasingly needed to ensure safety for all students. This is an issue that LGBTQ rights advocates are asking of public spaces, including schools. Gender nonconforming students tend to feel more anxiety and fear of harassment in single-gender restrooms. They are also more likely to be assaulted or mistreated within gendered restrooms in comparison to cisgender people. Cisgender refers to people whose gender identity is consistent with the sex that they are assigned at birth. The initiative will not remove gendered restrooms, but will provide access to restrooms where everyone can feel safe and comfortable.
This year, San Marin High School created single-stall gender-neutral restrooms on campus. To help with the rollout of the bathrooms, students from SSJ teamed up with the Gay-Straight Alliance Club (GSA) to create public education materials to inform students and staff about the importance of gender-neutral restrooms and to counter the idea that students are uncomfortable with gender-neutral restrooms. Youth also created flyers to address some of the myths surrounding gender-neutral restrooms. The flyers were then hung up in teachers’ classrooms and around campus. The youth haven’t stopped their campaign to combat homophobia and transphobia on campus. They are currently developing a training to teach other students how to intervene when hearing homophobic or transphobic comments. Youth leaders are excited to continue their work to shift perceptions and improve school climate for all students.