Will gender neutral bathrooms ever come to EHS?


Dani Fraher

Going to the restroom is not something that people should have to think twice about, especially at school, where safety and education should be the highest priorities. Yet countless trans and non-binary people do struggle with finding a space they feel comfortable in, including many students at Eagan High School. That’s why Spectrums Club made it their mission to give students an accessible, low-anxiety, gender-neutral restroom. 

“We all just got to thinking about how there definitely should be a gender-neutral restroom at Eagan High School,” says Tori Westenberg, the leader of the club, “because a lot of their students need to use that restroom in order to feel comfortable and feel safe.” 

The group started brainstorming for the project late last fall, originally coming up with an inexpensive plan to convert an upstairs staff restroom by replacing the sign and opening it up for student use. They then sent out a survey to Eagan High School students asking for their input on the project. It received over 500 responses, which is about one-fourth of the student population, and a majority were in favor of having a gender-neutral restroom. 

With a plan laid out and student support backing them, Spectrums had a meeting with Dr. Reikowski and the school administration in March to discuss putting things in action. The issue of gender-neutral facilities had been talked about in the district for years, but it had always been “put on the back burner,” as Westenberg says. To the club’s surprise, the administration said that Eagan High School already has gender-neutral restrooms tucked away in the hallway between the counselors’ office and the attendance office. Spectrums had no idea they existed.

A week after the meeting, Westenberg set out to find them. “I was like, ‘Alright, I gotta check these out for myself.’ It took me a bit to find it. You go into the counselors’ office, you take some kind of turn, and they’re right by the teacher mailboxes. There are two restrooms. There are no stalls. You walk in and it’s the bathroom,” she says. “But they’re not ideal because […] we want a restroom where trans or non-binary students could go to the restroom where they don’t have to go through some secluded area, some kind of maze, just to use the restroom.” 

Accessibility and personal privacy were the club’s main concerns, and while these restrooms are available for anyone who needs them, they are difficult to find and get to in between classes. Students may also feel uncomfortable crossing through an area constantly occupied by staff members. 

When Spectrums presented their plan, the administration was adamant about keeping the staff restroom for teacher use, instead suggesting rebuilding the men’s and women’s restrooms in front of the attendance office as one gender-neutral restroom. However, this reconstruction would be much more extensive and expensive, the cost ranging anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 dollars. That kind of money would have to come from a bond issue, where taxpayers vote on how to spend money for school construction. 

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a bond issue since 2004, and according to Dr. Reikowski, it’s unlikely that there will be one anytime soon; the current junior class will most likely have graduated before action is taken. “I don’t know how soon [the next bond issue] will happen. I thought it might happen next year, but we’re in a pandemic, and a lot of people don’t have money. It might not be a good time to ask. Voters have to approve it,” she says.

Spectrums is disappointed, but Westenberg is not surprised. “It’s no secret that schools have a lack of funding in areas of inclusivity and a budget surge when it comes to things such as sports and theatre. […] It’s no surprise that gender inclusivity and protecting trans lives isn’t their top priority.” But the club is pressing on, focusing its efforts on making these restrooms well-known to students. They’re also working on an LGBTQ+ student resource pamphlet for the counselors’ office.

“In my opinion, I think it’s a pressing issue because trans students are at Eagan High School. Always have been, always will be, every single year,” says Westenberg. “Sometimes projects don’t take off, but at least we tried. If schools can’t get the funding for accessible gender-inclusive bathrooms, it only reflects their environment, and Spectrums Club will keep trying to uplift and support queer kids as much as we’re able.”