Wilson’s Proposed Gender Neutral Locker Room Is Safer Than You May Think

Isaac Foster

Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) recently revealed plans to construct a new aquatic center at Wilson High School. The goal is to eventually renovate five swimming pools within the district but groups of parents and staff within the high school are apprehensive about the proposed plan to include a gender-neutral locker room.

To clarify, that means all students will use the same locker room regardless of their gender identity. Over the years LBUSD has prioritized making their facilities inclusive; spaces that can be used by students of all gender identities, students with disabilities and students who desire privacy for any reason. These facilities align with the core values of the school district: equity and inclusivity.

Some parents at Wilson have been voicing their concerns online; below are listed some of the most common questions.

“Isn’t this just patronizing LGBTQ students?”

The fact of the matter is that many students have desired these facilities and have voiced their opinions during board meetings. Wilson’s newspaper, The Loudspeaker, reported in January that, “Privacy is a concern for many students faced with the prospect of communal showers and large undifferentiated changing areas. It would seem that most individuals – irrespective of their gender identity and expression – don’t want to change in the open or bathe in gang showers.”

Along with student wide support, the addition of inclusive facilities helps students with disabilities. If a person requires a caregiver of a different gender they will be able to assist them in the locker room.

“Co-ed locker rooms are not safe!”

Many students stated in focus groups conducted by LBUSD that current locker rooms needed more supervision to decrease the potential for bullying and inappropriate behavior. With the current outdated designs, there tends to be many nooks and crannies where students can be out of sight from any administration; it doesn’t help that the lockers themselves stack well above six feet and obstruct the vision of teachers and other supervisors.

Working together with the architects and students, the planning committee for the aquatic center determined what they could do to maximize privacy and safety in the new facilities. Instead of having common areas for changing students will now have individual changing stalls and individual showers. If a student is showering, they will remain in the stall until they are fully dressed. No students will be undressed or partially undressed in common areas.

The doors for these stalls were designed to be “gap-free” so that there are no sightlines. The doors leave only a single inch of space from the floor and extend higher than the previous doors to prevent anyone from peeking into the stall or going under the partition. Furthermore, the doors are equipped with occupancy indicators and are programmed to stay slightly open when not in use so that it is completely clear when a stall is occupied.

To increase supervision, waist-high lockers will be installed to ensure an unobstructed view of the students. On top of that, inclusive facilities allow staff of any gender to be in the locker room, so there will be an increased number of supervisors to monitor students.

“Aren’t there already gender-neutral bathrooms? Isn’t that enough?”

Another problem that LBUSD found in their student focus groups was that the current single-occupancy restrooms were not an adequate problem to the solution. In 2016, California passed a law that every single-occupancy restroom must be converted into a gender-neutral restroom.

Although this law was designed to benefit non binary people, it backfired as students waiting in line for one of these bathrooms experienced bullying from other students. Another problem that arose was that people who had yet to publicly come out as non-binary were indirectly outed by waiting in the line.

By incorporating a gender inclusive facility everyone uses the same restroom so nobody will be singled out.

“How will these locker rooms accommodate dual swim meets which can have up to 300 athletes participating?”

During a large swimming event like a dual swim meet, there are typically 130 swimmers from each school. If Wilson is hosting Poly, Wilson would have their swimmers change during Poly’s travel time. When Poly arrives, there will be 58 stalls for them to use. Unlike football games, swim meets do not require everyone to be competing at the same time so therefore not everyone will need to use the locker room at the same time. The process is not perfect, but it will be something the students will get more efficient at as they become more acclimated to the process.



What the author fails to understand is that gender neutral locker rooms violate privacy and toilet provisions of the code, Chapter 31B Public Pools. Chapter 31B states that separate toilets for each sex shall be provided and that locker rooms shall be designed to keep members of the opposite sex from viewing into the locker rooms. The current Wilson high coed locker rooms violate both of these provisions thereby failing to meet minimum life safety standards mandated by the code.

Inclusive design and private changing and shower stalls can easily be incorporated into traditional single sex locker room designs much like accessibility is handled. We don’t redesign entire parking lots with 100% accessible parking stalls because we know that the parking lots lose functionality. The locker rooms are the same. We can keep our time proven single sex locker rooms without a complete design for inclusivity.

It is misleading to say that coed locker rooms are the only way to achieve the privacy that the author states students have requested.

These points have been brought to the attention of all invested parties: the district, school board, architect, state architect and the California department of education. My question is, when will be hearing from the district as to whether these locker rooms will be redesigned so they meet code.

The author is welcome to contact me should he wish to become more informed on the issues at hand.

Gender neutral restrooms are NOT the same as CO-ED locker rooms! A co-ed locker room with boys/men and girls/women plus non-binary individuals will be changing into and out of swim suits at the same time, and moving between showers and changing stalls wearing just a towel. Why in the world would you think this will be a safe space?
There is much, much more to this issue than the very abbreviated comments that Isaac Foster wrote. Perhaps he should have interviewed people on both sides of this issue before publishing such a poor piece. Perhaps he should have educated himself on the origin of Safe Sport (https://uscenterforsafesport.org).

Especially disturbing to have this configuration at any Long Beach High School with a long history of bad behavior by their aquatic athletes.

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