By Katie Leigh and Jordana Pearlman
Jericho High School now has an all-gender bathroom in order to a create a safe space for everyone regardless of their gender identity.
Jericho High School’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club was instrumental in the creation of this bathroom. English teacher and GSA adviser Allison D’Antonio said, “I think it’s important because it’s not only meant for students who may identify as ‘other’ when it comes to the gender binary, but I think it’s also important for those students to have the option to go into a bathroom that they feel they’re most comfortable going into.” She added that the push for this bathroom came from the students of the GSA club, since there are students in the community who might not feel comfortable using one of the single-sex bathrooms.
Senior and GSA president Sophie D. is one of these students. “There are kids, myself included, who don’t feel they identify with the gender binary and so they need a safe place to use the bathroom. It’s also for the rest of the student body to sort of be more aware of that and know that those people exist,” she said.
The all-gender restroom is located across from the assistant principal’s office and adjacent to the student cafeteria side entrance. High School Principal Joan Rosenberg explained how it was decided which bathroom would be changed.
“They wanted to use a bathroom where we’d be able to open up pretty quickly for it. We also did not want to take away a bathroom that others had been using.” Previously this rest room was an underutilized men’s faculty bathroom.
Rosenberg explained that the all-gender restroom is a sign of the times and is responsive to all students in the building, although she contends that more work still has to be done to make it even more comfortable. She said, “There were two stalls in that bathroom, so right now there are dividers there, but according to new regulations of what an all gender bathroom needs to have, we need to make some changes there.”
She added that these changes are longer stall doors and dividers between the stalls, but these dividers cannot be completely from the floor to the ceiling in case of an emergency. These changes have been scheduled and should be completed soon.
Jericho students generally agree that we need these bathrooms, but some do have concerns.
Junior Christine B. said, “Initially, I was extremely excited about the all gender bathroom because it’s great that anybody that identifies as whatever gender they identify as could feel accepted in a school environment. I think that’s so healthy in a learning environment to be able to be yourself and that promotes educational purposes too. I would never use that bathroom because I would feel so threatened especially since I’ve been hearing a lot of people making jokes about people abusing the bathroom.”
Senior Maria G. feels similarly. She said, “I think that in essence the all gender bathroom is a wonderful idea, but I think that the way we went about creating it was not necessarily the right way to do things.” She feels that the all gender bathroom should either be a one-room bathroom or have floor-to-ceiling stalls so that everyone can feel comfortable. She added, “It’s not just a matter of people feeling comfortable about their gender, but their safety, as well.” Sophie D. recognized these concerns and said, “I am right now working on improving it because it’s missing a few necessities.”
This new bathroom has not come without some controversy. Sophie D. recently walked into the bathroom to find graffiti on the wall. She quickly reported this to Assistant Principal Dr. Dagoberto Artiles who immediately had it removed. When asked how she felt about this incident, she said, “I’m surprised it took this long, frankly. We knew that this stuff would happen going in, but it’s the kind of stuff we have to deal with if we want to keep this and if we want to make more.”
According to Artiles, it’s impossible for someone to be held responsible for this since there are no cameras or surveillance in the bathroom. He added that instead, students need more discussion time about this topic. “This is something that’s fairly new. Some people are still trying to understand what this bathroom means and why it is necessary,” Dr. Artiles explained that the Administration is working to improve this facility so that it meets the needs of our community.