Montclair sets up gender-neutral restrooms in all schools
By ERIN ROLL
Montclair has started the school year rolling out gender-neutral restrooms at each of the schools.
Beginning last year, only the high school had a gender-neutral restroom. Now, every school in Montclair will have at least one restroom for all students to be able to use regardless of gender identity.
Parents were informed about the bathrooms in a general housekeeping email about the start of school sent the end of August.
“Historically, restrooms have been a place for harassment, discrimination and threats of injury and assault towards transgender people. All-gender restrooms provide an opportunity for our community members to enter a room without being questioned or interrogated,” an email to Glenfield parents from Principal Anthony Grosso stated.
In July 2017, Gov. Christie Chris signed a law giving protection for transgender students attending schools in New Jersey. With the passage of the legislation, schools cannot force transgender students to use bathrooms that conflict with their gender identity. Schools are required to provide "reasonable alternative arrangements to ensure a student's safety and comfort," with bathroom and locker room facilities, the law reads. The law also requires that students be addressed by the name and pronoun they prefer, and be allowed to dress in attire they prefer and to take physical education classes that match their identity.
Because of the age of Montclair’s school buildings, the district opted to designate some of the existing restrooms as gender-neutral. This was a matter of ordering new signs for the doors.
Some of the all-gender restrooms would be a single-stall, while others would have multi-stalls.
“The type of restroom will be contingent of the school — meaning schools with more restrooms can transform a multi-stall restroom into an all gender restroom. Others may have to use a single stall restroom. Our mature facilities present some challenges that we are simply working through as thoughtfully as we can,” Superintendent Kendra Johnson said.
School staff has also received professional training on gender-neutral restrooms and students’ needs, including having staff meet with consultants from Hudson Pride and Garden State Equality.
Montclair officially started work last year on implementing at least one gender-neutral restroom in each school, and to educate staff on being aware of the needs of transgender and gender-fluid students.
Montclair High School was the first of the district’s schools to be outfitted with a gender-neutral restroom.
Out of concern for transgender students’ needs, a group of Montclair High School students launched a petition on Change.org in 2016 calling for gender-neutral restroom facilities at the school. In response, then-Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi sent a letter to parents affirming the district’s policy on providing gender-equal restrooms and locker room facilities for students.