Students at Sturgeon Composite High School north of Edmonton now have more washroom options after some students came forward earlier this month with questions around how many gender-neutral facilities were located in the school.
In a letter sent home Monday from the Sturgeon Public School Division, the board of trustees said the bank of washrooms at the north end of the school, which was under construction until this week, will be designated as gender-specific. The facilities were open to students on Tuesday.
Two self-contained bathrooms in one of the hallways, which were also under renovation, were re-opened on Tuesday. The board of trustees said the stalls would be available to all students.
The announcement from the board came after students said the bathroom situation at the school needed to change. They said the majority of the facilities were made gender-neutral.
“The number of gender-neutral washrooms is very high,” Grade 11 student Evan Gabbey said. “They set two whole sets as well as two individual stalls to gender neutral and there’s one set for male and female and that does not at all represent the population of people who require the gender-neutral bathrooms.”
The students learned of the changes at the start of September and some said they didn’t feel comfortable sharing the new facilities.
“The first time I saw them I was nervous and I was like, ‘OK I’m just going to not use the washroom today,” Grade 11 student Austin Kirk said.
Privacy was also a concern for some parents and students. A petition asking for more gender-specific bathrooms garnered more than 100 signatures.
“I find it uncomfortable. I have other things to do than boys (do) in there,” student Jacey Taylor said, referring to the changing of feminine hygiene products. “You can hear it.”
Watch below: Some Alberta students are calling for more gender-specific washrooms after their high school converted the majority to gender-neutral stalls.
Amber Harris is the mother of a Grade 11 student at the school and called the move to open more gender-specific washrooms “half a step forward.” She said the move doesn’t address the privacy issues raised with the existing gender-neutral facilities.
“I think it’s pretty cowardly,” Harris said. “That’s picking up the rug and sweeping all the dirt underneath and hoping that it doesn’t come out. That’s what it sounds like to me.”
Listen below: Amber Harris speaks about the concerns on The Ryan Jespersen Show
Last Friday, Education Minister David Eggen said he was monitoring the situation.
“Sturgeon, clearly they have to make sure that they accommodate everybody, make sure everybody’s needs are met. I hope that they can sort this out as soon as they can.”
The board of trustees have a meeting in Morinville on Wednesday afternoon. Harris said she and several other parents will be in attendance to discuss the washroom situation.
With files from Sarah Kraus, Global News.