Josephine County, OR — Parents in the Three Rivers School District protested outside Illinois Valley High School on Monday over the district’s decision to renovate standard bathrooms into single-occupancy gender-neutral restrooms for all students and staff.
They wanted to know why these changes are being made and what’s being done to ensure their childrens’ safety.
Jessica Pope, a parent of a girl at Illinois Valley High School, expressed her disappointment with the decision.
“The majority, and I do say the majority, is not okay with this,” she said. She’s worried about the potential risks that could arise from having gender-neutral bathrooms, and feels that the district hasn’t done enough to address parents’ concerns.
“I’ve had meetings with the superintendent, with the principal at Illinois Valley. My husband had a meeting with the principal at Lorna Byrne. And the stuff that we’re throwing at them, they’re like, ‘Oh well, we didn’t really think about that,'” Pope said.
The protesters, who numbered around 15-to-20 at various points on Monday morning, said they weren’t consulted enough in the process and want changes to be made.
“We’re not gonna stop, we’re gonna keep going. Whether that means more protests getting on the school boards or pulling a mass amount of kids that way they lose their funding. I mean, look at some of the schools around the state,” Pope said.
“Trying to get those in authority to know there’s opposition to what they’re doing. It’s not right. It’s like it was dreamed up by a pervert. It’s a perverted thing they’re doing,” said protestor Paul Simon. “Those that are in authority here are all patting themselves on the back. They’ve all drank the Kool-Aid.”
However, the Three Rivers School District argues that the decision to implement gender-neutral bathrooms was made for safety reasons, and that having single-occupancy restrooms will reduce fighting and prevent students from vaping.
The new bathrooms will come equipped with monitors that alert staff if people are gathering. The district says the project has been in progress for over 15 months, and has been discussed in public meetings several times, including the design contract award on Apr 20 of last year.
“This project is fully underway and has a completion date of August 2023,” the district said in a statement on Monday. “The public has had more than their fair share of time to weigh in on the process.”
The debate over gender-neutral bathrooms has been a contentious issue in schools across the country. While some see it as a necessary step towards inclusivity and safety, others argue that it poses a threat to students’ privacy and safety. It remains to be seen whether the Three Rivers School District will continue with their plan to implement gender-neutral bathrooms, or if they will take the concerns of the protesters into consideration.
The full statement from Three Rivers School District can be seen below:
The goal of this project is to turn our large group restrooms in middle and high schools into single occupancy bathrooms for students and staff. This project has been in progress for over 15 months. It was first discussed in a public meeting on January 19th, 2022. It has since been on our Board Agenda several times, including the design contract award on April 20th, 2022. It was also a topic at our “coffee with the superintendent” public meeting tours. This project is fully underway and has a completion date of August 2023.
Currently our restroom configuration allows for groups of students to assemble in our restrooms and it creates a situation that is difficult to supervise. We consistently hear from students across the district that they are afraid to use the restroom during passing times because of the large groups in the restrooms. We have experienced fights in our restrooms and we are also battling a huge increase in student vaping in the bathroom.
The single occupancy restroom will eliminate the anonymous area where students can gather. Each restroom will have a floor to ceiling locking door that will indicate “occupied” when in use, similar to restrooms in many public places. Sinks will be outside of the restrooms in a visible and supervisable area. Each restroom will also include a vape censor that also detects loud noises or a commotion. If anything is detected by these sensors a real-time alert is sent to several staff throughout the building so that we can respond appropriately.