Lakeridge Middle School bathroom plans face exasperated opposition

These plans are about more than just bathrooms

“As probably the only trans person in that room, it was very disappointing and demoralizing to listen to all these people promote misconceptions… rather than fact,” said Elliott Lloyd, an LOHS senior, when describing how they’d felt at the Lakeridge Middle School’s informational meeting about its new bathroom designs.

Held on Feb. 4, the meeting hosted over 70 community members, including impassioned parents, students from both high schools, two School Board members, bond directors and school administrators. It was part of the Lake Oswego School District’s outreach efforts to inform community members of reconstruction plans funded by its 2016 bond measure.

Since the School Board and its bond directorate publicized design plans, a discrete population of parents began to voice discontent specific to the proposed bathrooms. Residents responded by writing a petition to repeal the plans of an all-inclusive bathroom. “Bathrooms need to be safe for ALL students, not just the VERY few,” said signer Barbie Ott. The information session, in town hall format, allowed dissenters space to opine.

The bathrooms will be “all-accessible,” meaning that every bathroom will be available for students, teachers and staff of all genders and abilities. There will be two kinds of restrooms: corridor restrooms and singles. The former will be larger with single-use stalls lining the walls and communal sinks either in the center of the room or near other walls. Stall walls will extend from floor to ceiling with partial sound absorption to offer increased privacy. These restrooms also include larger stalls with private sinks that allow students extra space with just as much privacy.

The latter kind of restroom will be larger and accommodative for students who need assistance. They will be equipped with menstrual hygiene products and baby-changing stations. Every stall or room will contain a toilet; there will not be any urinals.

When the floor was opened to public opinion about design, the group of dissenting parents expressed that it should be revised or scrapped entirely. While they were “all for inclusion,” they had concerns about the safety of their children. Some raised concerns about girls being uncomfortable when having to manage their periods in the same bathroom as men and boys. Others offered more extreme visions of sexual violence, bullying and drug use.

School administrators and bond architects, though, contradicted parent dissent. If someone were to yell or speak loudly from the stall, the architects explained, people outside can hear and respond. All-accessible restrooms would increase staff supervision, they said, therefore decreasing the unsupervised congregation of students. And the transition of bathrooms from their current design to all-accessible would not substantially affect aforementioned risks.

Like earlier controversy behind changing the middle school’s name, there seemed to be parent opposition to traditional bathroom culture. “There were a lot of parents speaking about this idea that it would be too stressful, too overwhelming, for girls specifically to not have that … empowerment that they felt was present in [a gender-specific] bathroom. [The attitude] was combative,” said Lloyd. To them and other students present, atmospheric tension felt unnerving; concerns about safety seemed to reveal concerns about the dissolution of bathrooms defined by gender.

Read our editorial on this issue “Lakeridge Middle school gender-neutral bathrooms create an all-inclusive space