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Ore. high school creates gender-neutral restrooms for transgender students

Saturday, March 23, 2013
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PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland’s largest public high school has reclassified six restrooms as unisex to create another option for transgender students and faculty who feel uncomfortable with traditional bathrooms.

The move is a first in the district and relatively uncommon nationwide for K-12 schools, which typically make staff or other small restrooms available, reported The Oregonian.

Ulysses S. Grant High School in Portland, Ore.

Officials at Ulysses S. Grant High School say four student restrooms and two staff restrooms — all single-stall — will be open to all students but create another option for the five to 10 transgender students at the high school.

Kristyn Westphal, the Grant High vice principal who helped lead the initiative, said administrators acted after counselors raised concerns.

“We just need to make sure that all students are safe and comfortable here, and that they have their needs met,” Westphal said. “If they feel unsafe using the bathroom, that’s a problem.”

Scott Morrison, a 17-year-old senior who was born a female but identifies as a male, says he stopped drinking water at one point so he wouldn’t have to choose between gender-specific restrooms.

Now, Morrison says he doesn’t have to struggle with the choice.

The state passed the Oregon Equality Act in 2007, joining at least 15 other states and Washington, D.C., in offering some legal protection for transgender people.

Earlier this year, Portland Public Schools’ general counsel Jollee Patterson sent administrators guidelines about how to deal with transgender issues, including bathrooms.

“This (bathroom) issue requires us to consider the need to support our transgender students, while also doing our best to ensure the safety and comfort of all students,” she wrote.

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