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Privacy Partitions Central to Washington’s First Gender-Neutral School Restroom

Like many communities in the upper Northwest of the United States., Vashon Island, Wash., just outside of Seattle, is known for its progressive, inclusive culture. In fact, both state and federal legislation protect the rights of public school students in Washington state. 

When Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 was passed, discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs that receive federal funds became prohibited. Decades later, the government interpreted Title IX to also cover discrimination on the basis of gender identity and transgender status. With the state legislature’s passage of Chapter 49.60 into the Revised Code of Washington in 2005 and Chapter 28A.642 in 2009, those Title IX protections became unequivocal law within Washington public schools. 

So when the Queer Spectrum Alliance at Vashon Island High School, just outside of Seattle, began campaigning to administration for all-gender facilities to support the school’s LGBTQ population, these antidiscrimination laws helped them make a compelling argument to Seattle Public Schools representatives. 

To achieve this objective, privacy was a non-negotiable. While some commercial facilities might consider single-user restrooms to maximize privacy for their patrons, this is rarely a practical option for public schools due to budgetary and time limitations. However, a high level of privacy could be achieved through toilet partitions, without the need for new wall construction, new ductwork, fire sprinklers, or electrical systems.

Meanwhile, as is the case with any school’s toilet partition system, durability was a key requirement, as educational facilities often see high rates of vandalism, which can result in increased maintenance and a reduced lifecycle for the installation.   

Bobrick DuraLineSeries Compact Laminate Maximum Privacy, Gap-Free partitions were a clear choice as a means to maximize privacy and promote peace of mind for all students using the new all-gender restrooms. While continuous hardware between the panels and stiles eliminate sightlines, 72"-tall doors further helped reinforce privacy.

The durability of DuraLineSeries also supported the choice. The Compact Laminate material was ideal, as it is difficult to scratch. 

Each all-gender restroom features a shared hand-washing area, an ADA-compliant accessible toilet compartment, and Bobrick B-3706C Semi-Recessed Napkin/Tampon Vendors with free dispensing. In recent years, several states have passed laws requiring some public facilities to stock a portion of the restrooms with such amenities at no charge.

School administration, the school’s parent association and its teachers all embraced the all-gender restrooms. In January 2018, they opened with a local media event and widespread enthusiasm. “Making bathrooms all-gender is the safest and clearest way to prevent students from having to explain or justify their bathroom use to anyone,” said Vashon Island High School Principal Danny Rock. “It’s something none of us should ever have to endure.”

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