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Catholic high school in Alberta switching to gender neutral washrooms

WATCH ABOVE: Education Minister David Eggen met with the Edmonton Catholic School Board to help iron out a new inclusion policy to support transgender students. Meanwhile, other schools are trying to be proactive. Kent Morrison visited a school trying out gender neutral washrooms.

EDMONTON – Morinville Community Catholic High School is planning to make the majority of its washrooms gender neutral.

The principal said the idea has been in the works since last May.

“We want to try and be proactive,” said Todd Eistetter. “We wanted to try to better meet the needs of our students and this idea was presented as one way in which we could do that.

“It’s just a washroom. We don’t need to label it or label people that are using it.”

The school currently has 10 washrooms. Officials are considering changing eight of those to gender neutral. Each of the other two would be designated for male students and female students.

“We will have choice,” said Eistetter. “There will be washrooms here that will be gender specific for those students or parents that wish to see that.”

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Students will be consulted about how many washrooms should be gender neutral and the change will take effect over the next couple of weeks.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Grade 12 student Rebecca Kerrison. “I think it’s so important for them to have it.”

“They have the right to be who they are and who they want to be. For our school to support that, that’s amazing because I know not a lot of Catholic high schools do that.

“I’m extremely proud to be part of the school.”

The current bathrooms are already well-designed to be gender neutral. They are not separated in a closed off space and all have individual stalls.

“Our bathrooms are pretty private to begin with,” explained Kerrison, “floor to ceiling doors. It’s just basically you’re washing your hands next to someone. It’s not that big of a difference.”

Eistetter said the only thing that will have to be changed are the signs outside the bathrooms.

“The design of the building makes it a natural,” he said. “There’s no capital work that has to be done.”

The washrooms at Morinville Community Catholic High School.
The washrooms at Morinville Community Catholic High School. Kent Morrison, Global News

Eistetter explained the decision would be done in an effort to make transgender students more comfortable.

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“I don’t know if a student needs to have to ask for that. That’s something that we should be trying to work at in a more proactive manner.”

“This way we can try to best meet the needs to all students whether they are questioning or whether they are not.”

The Morinville high school is part of Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools. In next two weeks, a gender inclusive policy will be going in front of the board.

 

Currently, the Edmonton Catholic School Board is in the middle of a heated debate over a proposed gender identity and inclusion policy.

The policy was presented to the board after one young transgender student wanted to use the girls’ washroom and was told she should use the gender neutral option instead.

A board meeting to discuss the proposed policy on Sept. 15 unravelled into arguments. Alberta’s education minister said he expects the board to shape up and has tools at his disposal to step in if a decision isn’t reached.

READ MORE: Education minister meets with Edmonton Catholic trustees over transgender policy 

Morinville Community Catholic High School has not started discussing how locker rooms or school sports teams might be impacted or if rules in those spaces could be changed.

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“Our locker room does not allow for that,” said Eistetter. “Our sports teams, because it’s an ASAA issue, that’s not on the table right now. That’s a bigger issue that’s going to have to be settled on the provincial, national levels.”