Gender neutral bathrooms open at Santa Barbara public schools

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The gender neutral bathroom at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta. Photo: Mary Ziegler (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

All gender restrooms have opened in three public schools in Santa Barbara County.

Dos Pueblos High, San Marcos High, and La Colina Junior High all now have bathrooms with the gender neutral sign on their doors. Some are single stall restrooms. Some have multiple stalls. They can be used by any person, regardless of gender identity or expression.

This comes as several states are fighting back against the Obama Administration’s directive for every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

KCRW’s Larry Perel spoke about this with Frann Wageneck, the assistant superintendent for the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

How did this change come about?

We really had to follow the lead of our students. Our students started telling us that although they are transgender, they don’t necessarily feel safe comfortable going into a restroom that matches their gender identity. So, establishing what we call an “All Gender Restroom,” where folks of any gender can use the restroom, solves that issue.

Is it different than what’s called a Unisex bathroom?

It’s the same idea, but unisex bathrooms are often only one stall [some of these have multiple stalls].

Has there been any backlash?

We’re only a couple weeks into this. Dos Pueblos High School Principal Shawn Carey had one parent phone call. She shared with that parent that there are six additional gender specific restrooms on the campus that that student can use, and the parent seemed very content with that answer.

Should parents and students in the district expect to see gender neutral bathrooms in every school?

Our plan is that by January 2017, each K-8 school will identity a minimum of one single stall gender neutral restroom and each high school will identify a minimum of two single stall restrooms.

Students at Santa Barbara High School chose a transgender prom queen, Blue Nebeker, this year. But, Nebeker says she still doesn’t want to use the restroom at Santa Barbara High School, even with the changes taking place. Why is that?

Regardless of the fact that Blue is very accepted, there are still students who aren’t accepting. Being looked at because folks are curious feels awkward when all you want to do is go to the bathroom. Any civil rights change is incremental.