Red Deer high schools identify single bathrooms as all gender

To some, it may just be a different sign on an existing bathroom.

But for a high school with students and staff with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, it is a sign they are supported.

Hunting Hills High School highlighted its all gender bathroom in a Facebook post on Friday.

Principal Darwin Roscoe said the bathroom, a single room with a toilet and a sink, was originally for male staff members, but they recently made the change.

“We wanted to support all of our students in our school,” said Roscoe, adding some of them have unique needs.

“Our students have been very accepting and positive. We have fantastic kids and they really are caring kids.”

By doing so, Hunting Hills became the second in the Red Deer Public School district to have an all gender bathroom. Lindsay Thurber High School also has an all gender bathroom.

Board chair Bev Manning said they started to research and develop a board-wide policy that included supporting transgender students a few years ago. She said the board decided to take a pro-active approach to the issue.

“It’s what we do to help kids,” said Manning. “You want to make safe for all kids. Not only safe, but you want to treat people with compassion and understanding.”

After approving the the policy, a committee was formed to ensure smooth implementation.

Red Deer Public School District Superintendent Stu Henry said at elementary schools they haven’t had to “cross that bridge.”

“But at our high schools there is an actual need to take care of a couple of our kids,” said Henry.

About a year ago, the province adopted a new best practices guideline that included transgender identity issues. It suggested students be able to access washrooms congruent with their gender identity as well as providing a single-stall washroom for use by any student, regardless of the reason.

It also outlined that students should have access to change room facilities that meet their individual need and privacy concerns.

Outside of washrooms and change rooms, the guideline suggests practices ranging from supporting individual students to responding to bullying and supporting staff.

“There has always been accommodations for students,” said Manning. “Most facilities you go into and there are single stall washrooms available for people to use.”

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