Transgender bathroom debate prompts change in Lancaster County school district

"I asked several of the groups that we met with, 'Who feels comfortable changing in front of other people?', and of course, nobody raises their hand. Even as adults we’re still uncomfortable with that,” said Eastern Lancaster County School District superintendent Dr. Bob Hollister.

That was one of the deciding factors in a proposal put forth by the Eastern Lancaster County school board Monday night.

The board has dealt with controversy within the community after a transgender male student wanted to be able to us the men’s restrooms and locker rooms at the school.

The conversation prompted several meetings with the board and the community to try and reach a fair compromise.

“There was a general consensus from the community that we care about all the students. There was not a lot of name calling or finger pointing. There was a general sense of, I think in the community, an opportunity to bring us together, and I think we’ve done that in a lot of ways,” said Gary Buck, a school board member.

The proposal suggests creating single-user, gender-neutral, restrooms and locker rooms for all students to use.

“So picture a traditional locker room, where people are walking around in towels, that’s not going to happen. Students will literally have their own mini locker room, if you will,” said Dr. Hollister.

It’s a solution applauded by the LGBT Center of Central PA, saying in a statement, "The long-term plans to construct new gender-inclusive facilities for all students to utilize is a great step to support transgender students.”

But it doesn’t come cheap.

The high school locker room renovation will cost roughly $1 million dollars, not including renovations to the restrooms and facilities at the elementary and middle schools.

The district has a capital reserve fund that will cover the project, so it will not impact taxpayers at all.

They say one of the biggest things they learned throughout this process is that privacy at school goes far beyond the one student who prompted the conversation.

“It’s hard to put a price tag on that. So when we talk about spending a lot of money on renovating the school, how do you put a price tag on protecting someone’s privacy and dignity? And I think that was a big part of it for us,” said Buck.

Until the renovations are complete, students are asked to use the facility that aligned with their biological gender, with the option to use a private facility, too.

Superintendent Hollister says the high school locker room will be renovated first, and they hope to break ground on that in the fall.

The proposal will go to a full vote at Monday night’s school board meeting.

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