Bathrooms at Berkeley High School (BHS) are a disaster. Anyone who’s ever used — or attempted to use — a bathroom at BHS knows about the lack of soap, the missing paper towels, the sticky floors, unflushed toilets, and broken stalls. Most of these issues are caused by students, and have gotten so bad that BHS placed parent volunteers outside restrooms last December. However, for some students, the bathroom situation is even worse; many of BHS’s gender neutral bathrooms are almost unusable, if not locked completely, meaning it’s extremely difficult for gender nonconforming students to use the restroom during school hours. It’s clear that the BHS administration must make gender neutral bathrooms more accessible to gender nonconforming students.
Because there are only two gender neutral bathrooms in the school many gender neutral students find it difficult to use the restroom during the day. Ty Walthall, a sophomore in Berkeley International High School (BIHS) who uses they/them pronouns, said they avoid using school restrooms altogether.
“There’s only one or two gender neutral bathrooms at BHS in total, which means it’s a long walk just to get to one of them, so I usually end up using the girls’ bathroom,” they said.
Forcing students to walk over five minutes to use the restroom is unacceptable, especially considering that many teachers have strict bathroom policies. Students may not be able to access the restrooms during passing periods, and therefore need to miss class, which takes away valuable learning time.
The stigma of accessing gender neutral bathrooms is another common complaint among students, including Sol de Ugarte, a junior in Academic Choice (AC).
“Right before the pandemic closed schools, I tried to talk to someone at the office to ask for a key for gender neutral bathrooms, but was basically told ‘No, ask a security officer,’ ” de Ugarte said.
Because many students do not feel comfortable finding a security officer every time they need to use the restroom, or may not be “out” to many of the people at their school, policies like this only alienate trans and non-binary students, and aren’t much better than alternatives, like personal-use keys for students.
According to principal Juan Raygoza, gender-neutral bathrooms at BHS are only locked due to a custodial issue or if it is occupied by a student.
“Our custodial staff works as hard as they can to keep them clean and we need our entire community to be respectful of our physical spaces,” said Raygoza.
In general, most of these problems could be solved by adding more gender neutral restrooms and communicating with students on how to report an unusable restroom. By increasing the number of gender neutral restrooms on campus, any given restroom would be more likely to be clean and closer to all classrooms. Communication could also help students understand how to report an unusable restroom, leading to faster responses from the BHS custodial staff. Finally, students can also help bathrooms be more accessible. Even if they don’t use gender neutral restrooms, keeping the school’s restrooms clean means BHS custodial staff will be able to keep more restrooms open, ultimately helping everyone.