All-gender washrooms coming to more Toronto schools: TDSB
Dario Balca, CTV Toronto
Published Tuesday, February 16, 2016 10:46PM EST
The Toronto District School Board says it intends to open all-gender washrooms in public schools across the city in a bid to create a more inclusive environment for students.
All-gender washrooms are ones that any student can use, regardless of gender identity.
Students say the washrooms make everyone feels safer.
“It’s kind of, like, normal now,” said Callum Robertson, a student at City View Alternative School, which has had the washrooms for several years.
The washrooms have been such as success that a group of students from the school is now visiting other schools to give presentations on the benefits of all-gender washrooms.
“The all-gender washroom is a place where any student, regardless of how they identify, can go,” said teacher David Stocker.
There are currently about 50 Toronto public schools with an all-gender washroom.
Northern Secondary School is about to open its first all-gender washroom. Palmerston Junior Public School has had one for a few years.
The Ontario government said it stands behind the TDSB’s initiative.
“It is our government’s priority to ensure all students feel safe and accepted at school. Our government has invested over $425M in safe schools initiatives that are helping make Ontario's schools some of the safest in the world,” the office of Education Minsiter Liz Sandals said in a statement.
“The Education Act requires schools and school boards to provide safe, inclusive and accepting learning environments to support the achievement and well-being of all students, including students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”
After changes to the Ontario Human Rights Code in the last few years, that accommodate transgender and non-binary individuals, the TDSB’s goal is to have one in every school across the city.
“That really requires us to do it even if it is uncomfortable for some people,” said Ken Jeffers, the co-ordinator of the TDSB’s gender-based violence prevention initiative.
Changes to the code include specific building code standards that meet certain inclusiveness so that everyone feels comfortable using the washrooms regardless of gender identity.
Students say it means no one has to risk being bullied, but they admit there is still a need for gender-specific space too.
“It’s not good to only have an all-gender washroom, just like it’s not okay to only have girls’ and boys’ washrooms,” said Alice Paradis.
The school board doesn’t yet have a timeline for when they will open the washrooms.
Other Toronto-area school boards are looking into implementing similar policies.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Naomi Parness