Amid national debate, gender neutral bathroom installed


photo by Jonathan Foldi

Gender-neutral bathroom located in the sophomore hallway.

Amelia Davidson, Reporter

When students return to the CESJDS Upper School for the new school year, there will be a variety of changes due to renovations over the summer. One of these changes is the addition of a gender-neutral bathroom.

The bathroom is located in the sophomore hallway, near the science classrooms, and is intended for the use of both staff and students. The construction of this bathroom was part of the structural redesign that took place in the school over the summer.

Since March 2016, when the state of North Carolina created a law that required public school students to use the bathroom of their sex assigned at birth, the question of whether schools should have gender-neutral bathrooms has been a topic of fierce debate on the national level. In response, many schools across the country have created gender-neutral bathrooms in order to support transgender rights, and JDS has followed suit.

According to Dean of Students Roz Landy, the idea of making a gender-neutral bathroom was a collective decision made by the entire administration. One of the main themes that JDS will focus on throughout the school year is embracing diversity, so the incorporation of gender-neutral bathrooms is a natural extension of that.

“There’s a lot in the news about [gender-neutral bathrooms] and our goal is to make JDS a safe place for students and faculty,” Landy said. “We want a school where everyone feels comfortable, included and welcomed.”

The decision to create gender-neutral bathrooms was also important to the administration because it ties into some of JDS’ core values. In this way, it was viewed by Head of School Rabbi Mitchel Malkus as simply another way to represent everything for which JDS stands.

“It fits really well into this notion of respect for individuals, because everyone is created in God’s image,” Malkus said. “There may be many different opinions about how one lives their lives according to Jewish law, but as a pluralistic school we want to make room for everyone in the community to feel comfortable.”

JDS’ Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club had discussed the merit of having gender-neutral bathrooms and the debates surrounding them in the news, but had not considered the possibility of JDS incorporating one into the new renovations. According to senior Ezra Gershman, however, who is the president of the GSA club, the implementation of the bathroom is a “pleasant surprise.”

Gershman’s hope is that this will help bring more student attention to the need for gender-neutral bathrooms in schools across the country. He also feels that this will help to increase JDS’ ability to be available to all people.

“By providing this resource for people who may need it, I think that it’s showing that the school is a place that is accepting of all people and they want to help foster a sense of safety within the school,” Gershman said.

Jewish Text teacher Rabbi Derek Rosenbaum, who is the teacher advisor for the GSA club, feels that the real importance of this decision is that it shows that creating an environment where all students feel comfortable is a priority of the school leadership team. In his mind, this is what truly puts JDS at the “forefront of being an inclusive community.”

“For most students this will probably be viewed as just another bathroom option,” Rosenbaum said. “But for some people, who may be dealing with their own identity, it could mean everything to have that safe place to go to if they don’t feel comfortable going to a men’s or women’s bathroom.”