Concerns for transgender students prompts action

The Tigard-Tualatin School District plans to add gender-neutral bathrooms at its middle and high schools next year for its transgender students.

At its last School Board meeting of the year on June 20, incoming Superintendent Ernie Brown said the district would look at installing new unisex restroom facilities at its five secondary schools — Tigard and Tualatin high schools and Hazelbrook, Fowler and Twality middle schools.

The change is meant to help transgender students and staff feel more comfortable using school facilities. Transgender individuals are often forced to pick either a male or female restroom in schools.

Tigard-Tualatin isn’t alone in taking up the issue. Similar conversations have been happening in state and local governments for months, with bills both for and against proposals in states across the country.

In March, Grant High School in Portland made national headlines after it announced that it would convert six of its restrooms into gender-neutral facilities — four student restrooms and two staff restrooms.

Earlier this month, neighboring Multnomah County announced that it would be adding single-occupancy, unisex restrooms in all new construction projects by the county.

This past year, the Tigard-Tualatin School District made staff restrooms available to transgender students who expressed discomfort with using student facilities. Brown said the district has met with administrators to discuss the change and how best to approach it.

“We’ll be looking at it school by school,” Brown said. “We will be identifying what the most appropriate restroom and locker-room facility would be.”

Susan Stark Haydon, a spokeswoman for the district, said the decision came after requests were made at each of the schools to install unisex bathrooms.

It’s still early in the process, Brown said, but the decision could require remodeling of some district restrooms.

“That could be extensive, or it could be minor by adding some privacy curtains,” Brown said. “We have a variety of different options, and they will be different from facility to facility. We are just starting this process.”

The unisex restroom facilities should be available by the time school is back in session this fall, Brown said.

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