Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School has installed a gender-neutral bathroom at its upper school campus amid the national debate over whether a person should be able to choose which restroom to use based on gender identity.
The goal of the bathroom “is to make sure everyone feels comfortable and safe. This will go a long way in doing that,” said Roslyn Landy, dean of students at the Rockville school.
Rabbi Mitchel Malkus, the head of school, said that in addition to transgender students, the bathroom can be used by parents with young children and visitors with caretakers, as well as any other person.
“Ultimately the decision is grounded in the values of the school,” said Malkus. “We view everyone as being created in God’s image and deserving of respect.”
There are no plans to install a similar bathroom in the lower school, he said.
Senior Ezra Greshman, co-president of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance club, said he was surprised and pleased by the decision.
“I was very impressed that our school decided that we would be having a gender-neutral bathroom,” said Ezra, 17.
“It makes me feel more comfortable in the school because it makes me feel the school supports the students’ needs,” said Annie Grimley, 16, who is the other co-president of the GSA.
Both say that students are aware of the national discussion about gender-neutral bathrooms.
“The school is very political,” Ezra said. “While we all might not agree politically on certain things, we all are able to have political discussions in our classes.”
Talking about gender identity and restroom preference began last year when Virginia transgender student Gavin Grimm, 17, was barred from using the boys’ restroom at school following what the American Civil Liberties Union has called the adoption of a discriminatory policy by the Gloucester County School Board. The issue is now at the Supreme Court, which issued an emergency stay in August to allow the state to bar Grimm from using the boys’ bathroom until the court decides whether to hear the case.
In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed legislation commonly referred to as “the bathroom bill” that states schools must require every student to use the bathroom consistent with his or her biological sex.
The bill sparked outrage. Concerts were postponed and PayPal canceled plans to open new offices in the state in protest.
Nationally, President Barack Obama in May issued a directive to schools to allow students to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity.
Republicans accused the Obama administration of overstepping boundaries when the directive threatened to withhold government funding if schools did not comply with the directive.