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One District's Solution to the Transgender Bathroom Dilemma

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September 4, 2018

School districts often get caught in the middle of polarizing issues. The matter of transgender students and bathrooms has been one such example, generating a recent spate of lawsuits as opinions clashed and tempers flared. Amid all this, a Kansas City-area district has come up with what looks like a plausible and fairly simple solution: gender-neutral bathrooms where students of either sex may enter. Inside, individual, lockable stalls with floor-to-ceiling walls provide the students with privacy. Hand washing is done in a common area outside the stalls.

The decision to try out the gender-neutral bathroom concept was made by a committee of district parents and students. So far, the arrangement has worked well, and people are happy with it. Teachers say it makes policing bathrooms easier because they can monitor students from the common sink area. Students, regardless of sex/gender identity, say they feel more secure because of the private stalls. District officials say the concept is going into all new construction and is being retrofit into some existing facilities.

Gender-neutral bathrooms might not be the solution for all schools, but it’s a step in the right direction when people, rather than being combative, come together, collaborate and implement plans that work for their particular schools and kids. We could use more of that.

About the Author

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Terri Thomas

Director of Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC.  Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS) from 1999 to 2015 and represents many school districts throughout all parts of the state.

It’s no accident that Terri wound up practicing school law.  She grew up in the school business. Terri’s father, the late Howard Thomas, was a school superintendent for 25 years in several Oklahoma school districts, including Pauls Valley—Terri’s hometown—and Ardmore. After graduating from Pauls Valley High School, Terri received her bachelor’s degree in Finance from Southern Methodist University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

She and her husband, Norman Thompson, and their 8-year old daughter, Mary, reside in Oklahoma City.

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