A high school under construction in Fort Saskatchewan is setting the standard for schools when it comes to accommodating transgender students, says a transgender advocate.
A high school under construction in Fort Saskatchewan is setting the standard for schools when it comes to accommodating transgender students, says a transgender rights advocate.
All students attending the new St. André Bessette school will use gender-neutral multi-stalled toilets.
"[Elk Island Catholic Schools] is setting a bar for all schools and school boards to follow in making our public spaces safer and more accessible, especially for trans and gender-nonconforming persons," said Bryan Mortensen, executive director of the altView Foundation for Gender Variant and Sexual Minorities.
Providing inclusive washrooms was a priority when planning the school, said EISC superintendent Michael Hauptman.
"This way it doesn't matter which cubicle you use," Hauptman said. "It's a washroom. No different than you would have in a home.
"The first thing we said is: 'How can we make this inclusive and let's start with our washrooms,' " he recalled.
When the building is completed in September 2018, students will have access to the same eight cubicles with a shared sink area outside in the hallway, regardless of their gender identity.
Hauptman said locating the sink area in the hallway allows for "passive supervision" which creates a safer space for all students.Advocate lauds move
Mortensen emphasized the importance of offering the same gender-neutral washrooms to all students, rather than converting one washroom for transgender students which, he said, leads to segregation.
"Bathrooms have long been an unsafe and stressful space for many folk in our community," he said.
"We are excited to see Elk Island Catholic schools make a meaningful decision in designing their school with all-gender bathrooms."
It's been nearly two years since the Edmonton Catholic School District struggled with a transgender girl's wish to use the girl's washroom, sparking debate over religious doctrine versus the rights of gender and sexual minority students.
Since then, Education Minister David Eggen has taken a number of steps to make schools more inclusive, such as ordering boards to submit new inclusive policies and providing corresponding guidelines.
His efforts have earned praise, but also backlash from critics on both sides.
One private Christian board publicly refused to comply with the guidelines or legal requirements allowing students to form gay-straight-alliances.
Others are critical of what they see as Eggen's unwillingness to take a harder line with resistant boards.
Hauptman said his board has worked to accommodate the washroom preferences of transgender students while remaining sensitive to the concerns of the wider community.
"As long as people have that conversation where we try to understand everyone's perspective, we can make this work," said Hauptman.
"It's when we become polarized in our conversations, where we try to pick sides of who's right or who's wrong, or try to make sense of what doesn't make sense to everyone, that's when we lose the point of helping our students."
When considering options for change rooms, Hauptman consulted with transgender high-school students.
They told him they would prefer privacy so Hauptman asked architects to create a space with private cubicles as a third change-room option.
"It always starts with a conversation," said Hauptman, who meets regularly with LGBTQ students. "We've got to stop assuming that we know what's best for our students and we've got to start asking the students what they need."
Mortensen, whose organization has been working with Elk Island Catholic officials on a number of projects, said he's pleased the washroom initiative came from the board.
"When the school doesn't have to be pressured to make these decisions, it just shows that they actually care about the outcome," he said.
- Man with bipolar disorder deported to Netherlands after nearly 6 decades in Canada
- Parks Canada rejects movie shoot in Rockies after learning of First Nations character
- MPRomeo Saganash likens senator's view on residential schools to those of Nazi apologists
- Leafs keep pace in tight playoff race after win over Flyers
- Why working out on an empty stomach is a bad idea
- Nobody wants their name on the GOP health care bill
- Kasha Nabagesera: The face of Uganda's LGBT movement
- This sex wearable that's being falsely marketed as a 'smart condom' is kind of ridiculous
- Canadian woman denied entry to U.S. says she feels 'targeted'
- 'Give 'er and get 'er done': Brier icemaker won't let a broken ankle stop him
- Creep Busters ambush of man with mental disability called 'vigilantism'
- For Alex Janvier, art brought escape from residential school surroundings
You might also like
- Turkey warns US relations are at risk if Kurds help retake Raqqa
- 'They'll tunnel anywhere they want': Go inside the underground passages smugglers burrow under the US border
- Central banks don't control the markets like everyone thinks
- Snapchat is facing 2 big growth barriers, and the stock is sinking because of it
- UK policeman jailed for cheating farmer out of share of ancient coins
- First Dates Ireland: Bird poop and dead wife 'jokes'
- 'Every time I see a report of a dead body, I ring the gardaí', says father of man missing for 21 years
- 'It was a mistake': official who sold Albert Namatjira's copyright
- Sci-fi authors feel let down by local publishers
- Which woman changed the way you think?
- Australian e-waste ending up in toxic African dump, torn apart by children
- Popular Oklahoma home builder among 6 indicted on federal stolen property charges
- Powerful South Carolina political consultant implicated in indictments of a veteran state senator
- Will Donald Trump get a second Supreme Court nomination?
- "Hazing" rituals await Supreme Court's "junior justice" Neil Gorsuch
- The hunt is on for Planet Nine. Here's how to join it
- Trump approves controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline
- Trump praises 'Fox & Friends,' renews old feuds in early morning tweets
- Rex Tillerson finally answers question from NBC News' Andrea Mitchell
- First Read's Morning Clips: The Latest in the Russia Investigation
- Spicer: 'I've let the president down'
- Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday
- OMB Diriector Mick Mulvaney: Washington's 'a lot more broken' than Trump thought
- Trump attacks conservatives over failure of health care bill
- A very consequential week didn't go well for President Trump
- Health Care Showdown: Republicans look to go big or go home
- No deal on health care bill after conservatives meet with Trump
- CA gov on those supporting health bill: 'Their name is going to be mud'
- Give it to me straight, doc: Is Obamacare dying?
- First Read's Morning Clips: Waiting for CBO
- 14 People Share What's It's Really Like to Have An Ex Who Is Now Their In-Law
- The Internet Is Freaking Out About The Way This Chef Cuts Pizza
- Malala Yousafzai becomes honorary Canadian
- Text of Malala Yousafzai's speech Wednesday to a joint session of Parliament
- Controversy over video comparing abortion to Holocaust shown in Catholic high school
- Foul play not suspected in deaths of four people found in burning N.B. house
- Plans to bring high-speed internet to remote First Nations with 3,600 km cable
- Deadly wrong-way collision kills four in Quebec
- Gov. Gen. David Johnston reflects on Vimy and horrors of war
- Canadian accused in Yahoo hack denied bail, judge criticizes parents
- Attention, Gardiner commuters: You've got one more week to use the York-Bay-Yonge off-ramp
- Alleged hitman in brazen Toronto shooting sent message about 'contract killing,' Crown says
- After 6 suspected overdoses, Toronto councillors want amnesty for users who test drugs
- How do you fix child care in Toronto? Get all 3 governments to spend billions on it, report says
- Review of York Region District School Board finds 'culture of fear,' 'systemic discrimination'
- Peel school board steps up meeting security 'to ensure people are safe'
- 'The feather and the Bible were together': A tragedy is helping to mend a city's racial divide
- 5 things we learned about the changing nature of news from The National in Conversation
- 'We hear you': Sudbury city official says cyclists, pedestrians will have a voice at city hall
- Any cuts made to Saskatoon's budget may be permanent, city manager warns
- Council approves demolition of low-rental housing for college residence
- 'It's just not a strong signal': Residents in rural P.E.I. asked to test their internet speed