Students, faculty, staff and media recently gathered in the central hallway of Nathan Hale High School in Meadowbrook to celebrate the grand opening of… a bathroom.
On May 17, the northwest Seattle high school’s Gender Awareness Group and Pride Club opened the campus’s first gender neutral bathroom. Two more bathrooms would be marked as transgender positive spaces later in the day, said student Destin Cramer, who spearheaded the redesignation of the facilities.
“This is a really important, really exciting thing to be happening at our school,” Cramer said.
Pride Club leader Flora Peterson noted bathrooms can be or feel like an unsafe place for people who don’t conform to biological gender. Transgender people may even avoid public restrooms altogether to avoid confrontation, she said.
That can cause transgender and androgynous students to feel left out, said student Noah Rice, a member of both the Pride Club and Gender Awareness Group.
“Everyone should be comfortable in the bathroom that they use and feel like they’re not going to be harassed just because they’re going to use the restroom,” Peterson said.
The new bathroom was Cramer’s “Hale Action Project,” a service prerequisite for graduation from the school.
As a transgender student and member of the schools Gender Awareness Group, he said he wanted to make a lasting change to Nathan Hale High.
“I wanted to make a difference for the transgender community,” Cramer said. “Not just for me, but for the group after me that comes to Hale.”
The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued a letter May 13 advising schools on the civil rights of transgender students under Title IX. Specifically, the Departments advised they treat a student’s gender identity as equivalent to their sex and that students should not be compelled to prove, via “medical diagnosis or treatment,” their gender identity to use school facilities.
However, Seattle Public Schools has accommodated gender non-conforming students since 2012 under an order issued by former Superintendent Jose Banda. All school facilities accommodate non-conforming students and just under half of district high schools have gender neutral bathrooms like the one at Nathan Hale.
Teacher Erin Shafkind, who assists with school government, said such policies helped Cramer’s proposal meet easy approval in the student senate.
“It’s just an honor to be doing something that our country is now looking at doing as well,” Shafkind said.
The bathroom will include regular safety and graffiti sweeps from security staff, Cramer said.