Loudoun County Public Schools is seeing push back from parents around a new pilot program that would renovate several school bathrooms in the Northern Virginia school system to make them gender-neutral.
According to plans released by the school district in March, several staff bathrooms at Loudoun Valley and Broad Run High School will be renovated to become three single-user gender neutral bathrooms complete with sink.
At Heritage, Dominion and Woodgrove High Schools, plans show “private toilet rooms” with shared sink access for all students and staff.
The school system is spending nearly $11 million designing and building the bathrooms as well as getting feedback from students on the changes.
At the board meeting Tuesday, some parents objected to the plans.
“Raise your hand in the room, if your place of business has communal bathrooms — boys and girls all in the same room. I don’t have it,” said one father during last night’s Loudoun County School Board meeting. “What it is, is we’re putting children in an uncomfortable and awkward situation.”
Many parents brought up their safety concerns.
“Let’s call the single-stall locked toilet enclosures inside unisex bathrooms what they are going to be … drug rooms and sexual assault rooms,” said one mother. “Put the focus back on education, not bathrooms.”
Another vocal parent added, “Where are the rights of the biological girls? … Why are they up for grabs? This is an insane policy being pushed by adults on the school board having no interest in the safety and welfare of girls in Loudoun County.”
Acting Superintendent Daniel Smith responded to many parents’ concerns during his report to the school board.
“I want to be clear that LCPS is not doing away with the standard configuration of multi-fixture restrooms assigned specifically to boys or girls in any of our schools. All students can use the multi fixture gender specific restrooms,” Smith stated. “We are however increasing the number of and access to gender-neutral single-use restrooms that offer more privacy.”
He said the current configuration of restrooms have also led to safety issues.
“While the vast majority of FCPS students are mindful and respectful of the individuality of other students, we know that smoking, vaping, drugs, vandalism, fighting, bullying and other types of conflicts and activity between students deter others from entering the space,” Smith said.
Student safety in bathrooms have become a hot-button issue after overdoses by teens including one who died in Arlington County in February.
Two sexual assaults by the same high school student in two Loudoun County high schools, one of which took place in a bathroom, have also placed bathrooms top of mind for many parents.
While only the pilot program is underway, the Loudoun County schools has written in plans similar “Privacy Restroom Conversions” would occur across the district.
Construction on the pilot bathrooms at the five schools is expected to begin this summer and be ready for students in the fall.
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