News that newly constructed North Kansas City Schools include unisex bathrooms for students brought another round of concerns from community members about student safety, but opponents should take the time to read beyond the headlines. Secure, gender-neutral or family restrooms should be available, whenever possible, in schools and other public spaces.

We suspect some of the opposition to unisex school restrooms comes from our own school experiences. Many people remember school bathrooms being more than just a pit stop but a place for conversation and bonding with students of the same gender. Nostalgia can make us hesitant to support changes in how schools function, even if those changes make schools safer for students. …

The new restrooms in North Kansas City are much more private than traditional school restrooms, featuring stalls with floor-to-ceiling locking doors surrounding common sink areas. The new restrooms have garnered support from students, teachers and parents, who speak well of the increased safety and privacy. Their design allows more security for students alongside better supervision from teachers.

In single-gender restrooms, male or female teachers would have to leave young students of the other gender unsupervised during classroom trips to the restroom. Unisex restrooms allow teachers to appropriately supervise their students at all times. …

One could support unisex restrooms solely because they make public spaces function better for those who use them, but no discussion of gender-neutral restrooms has happened in the modern era without inclusion of transgender people becoming a significant part of the conversation.

Many people who identify as transgender look nothing like the sex they were assigned at birth, putting them in the impossible position of using the “correct” restroom and risking harassment, or using the restroom that best suits their current identity and becoming political fodder. There is no right answer for many of our friends, neighbors and classmates who are simply using public facilities.

We find the argument that unisex restrooms increase risk of sexual abuse or other violence unsound and unsupported. If anything, single-gender restrooms that separate vulnerable children and adults from their caretakers give us more concern.

Let’s stop politicizing this discussion and choose how our schools and public spaces are designed based on a truly American standard: the best idea.


— The Topeka Capital-Journal