Princeton Middle School students seek gender-neutral locker room

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Princeton Unified Middle School (PUMS)

Princeton Middle School principal supportive of request

A gender-neutral locker room for LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) students may be in the works at the Princeton Middle School.

Two eighth grade students – Indie and Jules – rolled out their request for a gender-neutral locker room with five bathroom stalls and five showers before the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education meeting Feb. 21.

“Transgender and non-binary teens face a greater risk of sexual assault in schools that prevent them from using bathrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity,” Indie said.

Jules, who participated in the presentation, said Princeton Middle School students who were interviewed anonymously favored a gender-neutral locker room. Students’ comments were included in the presentation.

One of the anonymous students said the middle school prides itself on being accepting and inclusive of all types of students, but many students do not feel comfortable changing in the two gender-specific locker rooms at the school.

“I think that (a gender-neutral locker room) would be an important step in the right direction to make students feel more comfortable at Princeton Middle School,” the anonymous student said.

“I personally identify as genderqueer and I know this would make me feel more comfortable being in this school. It would make me feel more welcome here as a student,” the anonymous interviewee said.

When another unnamed student was asked about the benefits of a gender-neutral locker room, the student replied that all students should have the same facilities and the right to take a shower.

The gender-neutral bathrooms, which is where many gender-nonconforming people change, do not have a shower, the anonymous student said.

“There is a chance that when you go to change (in the gender-neutral bathroom), someone will be using the bathroom. It is especially uncomfortable if you are wet and drippy and cold and in your bathing suit,” the student said.

Indie suggested converting the women’s team room into a gender-neutral locker room.

“The plan would be to have five bathroom stalls and five showers,” Indie said. “It might be possible for the school district to apply for a grant to make the locker room handicapped accessible.”

School board president Dafna Kendal praised the students for their presentation. When she asked about the reaction from Princeton Middle School Principal Jason Burr, guidance counselor Sharon DiSebastian said Burr was supportive of the request.

School board members Betsy Baglio, Deborah Bronfeld and Jean Durbin thanked the students for bringing the issue to the school board’s attention.

“I appreciate your advocacy. You are solution-oriented. You are already thinking about grants. This is a great first step,” Baglio said.

Bronfeld said she is excited for the school board to take the next step.

Kendal said the proposal should be sent to the school board’s Operations Committee, which is co-chaired by school board members Brian McDonald and Susan Kanter.

“This is something the school board supports. It’s awkward enough to be in middle school in a bathing suit, and even worse if you are standing in the hallway (waiting to get into a gender-neutral bathroom),” Kendal said.

Kanter said the request for a gender-neutral locker room would be added to the Operations Committee’s agenda.

“We are looking forward to getting back to you. We might have a few further questions. We appreciate you coming to us,” Kanter said.