Parents of Illinois Valley High School took to the pages of social media April 3 to voice their discontent over the new restrooms at the school. Like most issues the majorities of opinions voiced were not based in fact, but rather fear over “Gender Neutral”restrooms.
Community opinions ranged from the notion that the new restrooms are unsafe for children, to extreme LGBTQIA+-phobia and all points in-between. The post was started by a person who claimed they have no children in the school, who seemed to enjoy stirring the pot and even called school board member Jenn Searle out by name.
In another post the original author was promoting a discussion “ … about a rally or protest at the schools on the subject. They (school board) did this over the weekend as not to draw attention, they tried to avoid scrutiny.”
So, what is actually happening? In the Jan. 25 edition, the Illinois Valley News reported that Superintendent Dave Valenzuela spoke during the Jan. 18 meeting on the topic of restroom renovations. Valenzuela updated the board and attendees about the district’s project to convert restrooms from stalls to singular rooms with toilets that connect to a larger room with sinks that is open to the hallway.
While the district feels this is a solution for many different issues, in an email Valenzuela stated, “I understand that there is a lot of public consternation stemmming from the idea that these are “transgender restrooms” or “transsexual restrooms” or…(fill in the blank). The reality is that we are creating safe, private and dignified spaces for students and staff to use the restroom. This is true for everyone. The parents who are super upset about the misconception that our single occupancy restrooms are ‘transgender’ specific restrooms may find comfort in the fact that Federal Law requires that schools allow any student or staff to use the restroom in which they identify with, regardless of their sex at birth. Single occupancy restrooms provide a private and dignified space for those who do not agree with federal law.”
“The new bathrooms allow for staff to see what is going on outside of the private rooms which will prevent groups of children from vaping, bullying and fighting. Bathroom spaces are traditional hot beds for that,” said Valenzuela.
According to Valenzuela, for the past three or so years students have been talking about how bad the bathrooms are. Many students are not comfortable using them between classes and take time out of class to go, and some claim to not use them at all.
So what’s to keep them from vaping behind closed doors? The district also plans to install devices that detect vaping and loud noises, which bullying and fighting would trigger. “Vaping in the restrooms is a chronic issue,” Valenzuela said. He added that with the installation of these sensors, he hopes the district will be able to greatly reduce the amount of vaping that’s going on.
“Every one of the district-wide, 141 stalls will get a vape sensor,” Valenzuela concluded.