Inside City’s Gender Neutral Bathroom

Over the last year, City students collaborated with the school board to create a gender neutral bathroom.

October 3, 2017

In the second floor of City High there is a new sign for a new bathroom that is for everyone, not just boys or girls. Over the school year of 2016-17 the Student Senate members realized that students at their school were in need of an all gender bathroom. The senators had chosen a specific bathroom and even planned the operation. The next step was to talk to someone from the district.

Bihotza James ‘18 started pushing for this new bathroom the summer of 2016. She had talked to Mr. Bacon and he told her another student at City, Xenophilius Tyne wanted to make this change as well. They started working together.

“We had both been trying to email the school board and they..never really got back to us,” James said.  

“I know he wasn’t really responsive to Bihotza,” added Tyne.

When the board finally responded to Bihotza and said they were in favor of this new bathroom Bihotza says they replied like this, “[Communicating with the board]took a really long time so by the time student senate got onto it and we had talked to the district and the whole school year had basically passed,” James said.

When the student senate members were aware of this issue they knew they had to contact Kingsley Botchway II the Director of Equity and Engagement for ICCSD and set up a meeting with him. But he is also a City Council member here in Iowa City and a Dad.

Student Senate set up numerous times for Botchway to come to one of the senate’s meetings but because of his very busy schedule he could not make it to most. After a while he told the students he would come to the next meeting. The senate waited and Botchway did not show. The meeting ended up with the senate members talking to him on speaker phone.

“Kingsley Botchway is really busy.” stated Xenophilius Tyne ‘20.

While on the phone with Botchway the students learned they needed to write a memo to be officially approved by the school board. Tyne wrote this memo at the end of the school year and then sent it to the school board who approved it.

The changes made to the once male bathroom of the second floor of City High were getting rid of the urinals and changing the sign. Which contradicted what the senate members originally wanted changed in the bathroom.

“I don’t really know what happened with the urinals, they have been taken out…And they might’ve just done it because of a safety thing. If it’s gender neutral just to have all stalls is fine but we have yet to put in the feminine disposal boxes,”  said senate member Bihotza James.

“I think it makes sense just to have stalls, for privacy matters.” Said Steve Tygrett a teacher at City High who oversees Student Senate.

James also mentions that if she and other members had known that those were the changes the district was planning to do changing the sign on a female bathroom would have been sufficient.

“It would’ve just made more sense to just change a female restroom.” Said Tyne.

While asking two students who knew nothing about the new all gender bathroom how long they think it would take for the school district to change the bathroom,

Nick Adams a seventeen year old senior at City responded with, “Probably like…two months.”

Another student, Rashae Smith(14) a freshman guessed around a month. In reality once the student senate members notified Kingsley Botchway the second that they needed this change in the school it took 3-4 months according to Superintendent Murley and one whole year since Bihotza James first pursued the issue.

Superintendent Murley states “I know the goal was to have it in and ready to go before the beginning of the school year.” Murley also mentioned that it “probably depended mostly on the schedule of our staff members.”

The estimated cost of the changes made to bathroom was 1,516 dollars.

“I feel like fore the school district it happened really quickly, but I also feel like there was a lack of things getting done on certain ends.” Said Tyne ‘20.

An issue related to this one was first brought up 4 years ago according to Mr. Murley. A student needed their own private bathroom. Not necessarily a gender neutral bathroom but a single stall restroom. This bathroom is located by the art rooms in the dungeon. Student senate considered transforming this bathroom into a gender neutral one but the men’s restroom they chose on the second floor is more central.

Both Adams and Smith thought that if they ever wanted to make any changes in City they that it would be hard.

“If people really want something to happen, usually they can make it happen.” Said Adams.

“I think they’re(the district) as accessible as you make them be…Any student that goes to the board with issues makes them listen,” said Tygrett.

“We’re trying to be as responsive as we can to those who come forward and raise issues and ask questions.” said Mr. Murley.  Smith did believe that students here at City have a say in their environment.

“We are certainly working as hard as we can to meet those needs,” said Murley.


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