Winfield High School adds all-gender bathrooms

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WINFIELD, Kan. (KWCH) -- A new school year comes with a new kind of bathroom at Winfield High School. The Winfield school district is one of the first in the area to create all-gender restrooms.

There are two such restrooms available at the school. One of the teachers behind the idea says the single-stall restrooms can give transgender students a safe space to go.

Winfield High School is home to about 700 students and now the two bathrooms, converted for all.

Last year, the high school's Gender and Sexualities Alliance Club decided to push for an all-gender bathroom.

To the surprise of the group's sponsor, Winfield High School language arts teacher Amanda Porter, the school's principal was on board.

"It was very much what I have often found Winfield to be is a place where it's about supporting kids," Porter says. "So, when we're in this building, we can do the job of education, make a place for (students) to be comfortable so they can learn."

Porter says the two all-gender bathrooms weren't newly constructed. They already existed as staff restrooms, so the only real cost to convert them was adding the sign that says, "PUBLIC ALL-GENDER RESTROOM."

"We were just fortunate in the architecture of our building that we had two restrooms that were easy to adapt in that fashion," Porter says.

Porter says as far as she knows, Winfield is the only high school in the area to adopt this kind of restroom, but it's been a nationwide and statewide discussion for years.

In 2016, Derby created a task force on transgender bathrooms, trying to navigate the federal directive to allow transgender students to use whichever restroom matched their gender identity.

The Trump administration rolled back that directive and Derby decided to drop the idea of creating a restroom specifically for transgender students.

The difference in Winfield is that anyone can use the all-gender, single-stall restrooms.

Parents like Johnny Watson say they're fine with the idea, being the way it is with the new restrooms only available to one person at a time.

"It doesn't bother me. I think it's a private bathroom, what could it hurt, you know what I mean?" Watson says.

Porter says she understands that some students may have concerns, but so far, there hasn't been any negative feedback.

"I like to think Kansans are very practical people," she says. "And when we're in this building during the day, we're here to educate kids, and we've got to meet their basic needs, we've got to meet those. And that's a practical thing. Let's do it, get it done, move along."

Porter says she's had transgender students in the past who chose not to use the restroom at school at all. The new restrooms she says, will make sure that doesn't happen.