With all the national clamor about which bathroom they can use, the city’s Department of Education has found an answer that will allow transgenders, gender non-conforming people and others to literally poop in peace.
That after the DOE announced a new initiative yesterday mandating single-stall student restrooms in every school across the city to accommodate the privacy needs of transgender and gender non-conforming students along with students with medical conditions and disabilities.
“We are dedicated to providing every student with a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment,” said DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “As part of that commitment, we want to ensure that all students receive the additional privacy they need and have access to a restroom that aligns with their gender identity.”
The first phase of the rollout will go from May to June 2017, and the remaining buildings will be completed by January 2018. The newly constructed restrooms will have to abide by a strict set of guidelines, including clear and appropriate signage, safety locks with administrative keys and free menstrual hygiene products in buildings serving grades 6-12.
The initiative has garnered acclaim from several city officials, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.
“Designating single-stall restrooms across the city’s schools is a welcome move that will enable transgender and gender non-conforming youth to use a facility for the most basic needs without fear or intimidation, as well as improving access to facilities for children with medical conditions or disabilities,” said Adams. “This initiative is particularly welcome at a time when we continue to see bullying against LGBT kids in schools, and a rollback of protections at the federal level for transgender and non-conforming people.”
Advocacy for transgender and non-binary students has been a major part of Fariña’s agenda since she was appointed in 2013. Less than a year after her appointment, the DOE introduced the city’s first Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Student Guidelines, which were written to entitle New York’s LGBT youth to an educational environment free of harassment and violence.
Since then, they’ve been updated several times to include guidance on supporting transgender or transitioning students, appropriate pronoun usage and updating personal and pupil records to reflect a student’s gender identity, among other measures.
At the state level transgender rights has been a pressing issue. Most recently, State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Northern Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan) has been working to bring anti-discrimination protections to transgender residents through his Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA — S.502). The legislation was not passed due to lack of Republican support, with not one Republican Senator voting in favor of the bill.
However, Squadron is still grateful for the single-stall initiative and hailed it as a small step in progress for LGBTQ people across the state.
“Access to public accommodations should be a basic right for all New Yorkers. This step will improve access for all students,” said Squadron.
City Council Member Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook), a lifelong advocate for LGBT rights, and the first openly gay Mexican-American city council member, also has commended Fariña for her commitment to the protection of trans students.
“I welcome Chancellor Fariña’s announcement of single stall restroom availability in New York City schools by 2018,” said Menchaca. “Single user restroom access conforms with the Department of Education’s recently updated Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Student Guidelines and matches requirements present for all City agencies. It also means students who need more privacy for any reason will have a basic accommodation that helps maintain a safe, more nurturing learning environment.”