Gender-neutral washrooms coming to Cowichan Valley schools

Gender-neutral washrooms coming to Cowichan Valley schools
SD 79
Cowichan School District provided a video tour of the new universal “Washrooms for Every Body” concept at Bench Elementary in Cowichan Bay.

Cowichan Valley School District (SD 79) is introducing universal “Washrooms for Every Body” at its schools, in a push to ensure safety, privacy and dignity for students of all genders.

The washrooms can be used by anyone and feature floor-to-ceiling doors for each toilet area, which open to larger, communal hand-washing stations.

“As we do renovations, that will be the type of design that we replace washrooms with,” Mike Russell, communications director at SD 79, told CHEK News on Friday.

Russell said the Washrooms for Every Body concept, already in place at Bench Elementary School in Cowichan Bay, is bound for Duncan’s new Cowichan Secondary School set to open in 2024.

That school, however, will see three sets of changerooms — one for men, one for women, and one universal, each designed to facilitate up to 30 students.

In a social media post on Thursday, SD 79 clarified the trio of changerooms were coming to Cowichan Secondary after noticing misconceptions circulating online.

“This false representation of our new school is hurtful to the students and staff who have worked so hard to ensure that our school has a place for everyone,” according to the post.

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According to Russell, students feeling safe and welcome at school is key to their personal success. It’s what pushed SD 79 to introduce the new washroom concept, which includes fixtures that meet accessibility codes.

“We have seen in our past that discriminatory policies, design and practice adversely affect the mental health and development of students and create life-long challenges,” Russell said in a video touring the Bench school washroom.

“It is for this reason, and many more, that new schools are being designed to serve students of all genders, including having washrooms designed for everybody.”

Russell said increasing privacy in toilet areas makes them more comfortable and provides dignity around a student’s individual health needs, ultimately fostering independence. 

Washrooms for Every Body “creates a better future for us all,” Russell added.


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