September 13, 2018 7:00 am
Updated: September 14, 2018 12:53 pm

Multi-stall gender-neutral washrooms coming to St. James school division

WATCH: Brett Lough of the St. James Assiniboia School Division says the conversion of girls and boys bathrooms to one large gender-neutral space is part of making all students feel safe in school.

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A Winnipeg school division is testing out their first multi-stall gender-neutral washroom.

The St. James-Assiniboia School Division is in the process of converting washrooms at two schools as part of a divisional pilot project.

Existing boys’ and girls’ bathroom facilities at Brooklands Elementary and Ecole Ness Middle School will be modified to create a gender neutral multi-stall space.

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The new bathrooms at Ness will include 15 stalls equipped with floor-to-ceiling privacy partitions, and a common area that will include sinks and hand dryers.

READ MORE: After gender neutral conversion, students ask for more gender specific bathrooms

Ecole Ness’ Parent Network president, Julie Millar, said it’s one of the ways the division is embracing a growing need to accommodate LGBTQ students.

“It’s pretty impressive that the school division is morphing with that and responding to those needs.”

St. James-Assiniboia will be joining a long list of divisions that already have single-stall gender neutral washrooms.

Seven Oaks School Division has 25 washrooms, River East Transcona has 42, Louis Riel School Division has 67, and there are 34 and 78 respectively in Pembina Trails and the Winnipeg school divisions. Most of those are single-stall facilities, rather than multi-stall.

RELATED: Canadian pediatricians issue guidelines to help parents, kids discuss gender identity

Raelene Recksiedler is the mother of a child who does not identify with their gender, and says the washrooms are needed.

“I believe gender neutral bathrooms are a necessity in today’s world because of the diversity that’s out there,” she said.

“Gender neutral bathrooms offer security for LGBTTQ individual,s a safe place to either change for gym or having to use a gender specific bathroom which could result in bullying as they would have to out their identity. As a parent of a gender-queer child, I know first-hand the bullying that goes on when using gender specific bathrooms or change rooms.”

But not everyone is happy about the way the situation has played out.

READ MORE: Germany approves 3rd gender option, allows people to register as ‘diverse’

Terra Morrissette and Will Thrifte have kids in the division. They said Wednesday that they were blindsided by the move after receiving an email from the school this week.

“I personally would like to know going forward if this is something the division would be willing to speak about with parents before doing some sort of social experiment with our children,” Morrissette said.

The division’s superintendent, Brett Lough, said the stalls are a needed addition to schools, but one that may cause some concern for students, staff or parents.

Parents like Morrissette.

“We’ll talk to the kids and we’ll get feedback from them in terms of [their] experience,” Lough said. “Then we’ll deal with those situations as we would any other situation.”

Correction: Due to incorrect information provided to Global News, the first version of this story said the washroom was the first gender-neutral multi-stall washroom in a Winnipeg school. Sage Creek school has been using multi-stall gender neutral washrooms for a year. 

WATCH: Multi-stall gender-neutral washrooms coming to St. James school division

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