A small sign, but big message, at PCHS
As students pour into Park City High School early in the morning and again after lunch, they will pass a simple red sign by the teacher’s lounge reading "All Gender Restrooms." Although the sign itself is small, the message it sends is a large one. There is now a publicly advertised option available for students who don’t identify as gender binary or don’t feel comfortable using gendered bathrooms.
"It is important for there to be all-gender bathrooms because it’s important to offer a safe place for a person to go to the bathroom without having to worry about bullying or harassment. Transgendered teens face harsh judgment from their peers and going to the bathroom is a struggle that they have to face every day," explained senior Tori Vipond.
Vipond is the president of the PCHS Gay Straight Alliance and identifies as gender neutral, preferring to be addressed with the pronouns "they" and "them." For Vipond, a simple trip to the restroom was once "extremely anxiety-inducing."
"It’s really difficult for me because I don’t identify as male or female, so when I’m forced to pick a bathroom to go into it’s like asking me to choose to be something I’m not. These all-gender bathrooms are a huge relief for me and I’m extremely grateful that they’re now available."
Although transgendered teens did have the option to use teacher’s bathrooms in previous years, they had to go through the administration to do so. The new all-gender restrooms are open all the time to anyone.
It was students at Park City High School that requested the bathrooms, led by PCHS senior and Student Council member Adam Snyder.
"I had been reading articles about how gender-neutral bathrooms had been implemented on college campuses and I thought it was definitely an issue that wasn’t just applicable to college students, but also at the high school level," explained Snyder.
"Going to the bathroom can be a pretty traumatic and awful experience if you don’t feel like you can fit in with what’s already set up, so offering a gender-neutral restroom option is something that can definitely make the school environment more comfortable for a greater amount of students."
To "get general support from the community" he presented his ideas, along with a list of colleges that have implemented gender-neutral restrooms, to the Park City school board in November. Snyder then met with the PCHS administration to make his goals a reality.
"I think the real support came from the administration at the high school, which was really cooperative. I had several meetings with them and they were able to accommodate everything I was asking for."
According to PCHS Principal Bob O’Connor, "It took a lot of courage for kids to come forward to request a gender-neutral bathroom."
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The Park City Board of Education is on track to place a bond on the ballot this fall to improve district facilities. The top priorities would be to put ninth grade in the high school, eighth grade in the middle school and to augment preschool offerings by expanding elementary schools.