Students protest after New Hampshire school district bans urinals
Students walked out of a New Hampshire school in protest of the district banning the use of urinals and shared spaces in locker rooms, according to a report.
On Friday, about 150 students walked out of Milford High School and middle school in protest of the new bathroom restrictions.
The protest came after a lengthy debate by the board of education over whether to separate school bathrooms and locker rooms at the school by sex assigned at birth and not gender identity, The Boston Globe reported.
The students demonstrated for about 45 minutes, according to Superintendent Christi Michaud.
“They feel as though there wasn’t an issue or a concern here at the high school,” she said.
One student who participated in the walkout told a local television station students were not consulted about the new policy.
“Nobody that I know – ask anyone here – no one requested this change,” student Jay Remella told WMUR during the walkout. “It was solely made by the school board and a parent complaint.”
Board of education member Noah Boudreault proposed the urinal prohibition as part of a “compromise,” that was accepted by a 4-1 vote on Monday.
The ban replaced an earlier proposal from vice chair Nathaniel Wheeler to separate bathrooms and locker rooms strictly on students’ gender assigned at birth — which was criticized by LQBTQ students, according to The Globe.
Wheeler’s proposal would have offered separate, gender neutral single-stall restrooms, effectively ending the district’s current policy of allowing students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.
At Monday’s board meeting, parents supportive of Wheeler’s proposal donned yellow smiley-face stickers that said “Support Parental Rights,” according to The Globe.
But a majority of the audience wore rainbow flags and condemned the policy as discriminatory during a public speaking portion of the meeting.
Nick Romeri, a 16-year-old transgender sophomore, said the policies could have a negative impact on the mental health of the district’s LGBTQ students. He said he and other queer students just want to be treated the same as cisgender high school students.
“I want my high school experience to be just like everyone else’s, like getting my license, taking biology class, and figuring my life out, not fighting for it,” he said.
Romeri urged concerned parents not to react out of fear.
“I see all these scared people on both sides not knowing what to do yet wanting to help their children in different ways,” he said. “The best way you can help your children is not discriminating against their peers, but listening and helping your child grow. That is all we want.”
He later told The Globe that he was happy that a compromise was reached, but felt the ban on urinals was unnecessary.
Under Boudreault’s proposal, students would be required to change for gym class inside stalls instead of in shared locker room spaces.
While changing, the capacity at each bathroom will be capped at the number of stalls it has — meaning only eight girls could change at a time in the girls’ high school locker room and only three boys at a time in their locker room.
Boudreault told The Globe that his main concern was safety and that his job as a board member is “to mitigate risk.”
He said he does not view LGBTQ students as dangerous, but said that something had to be done to address the concerns of both parties so the school could deal with other pressing issues it is facing, such as students vaping in the bathrooms.
“My proposed solution took care of a myriad of other issues that the school district is experiencing, so instead of fighting the gender fight, I decided to fight the larger fight,” he told the newspaper.
Superintendent Michaud raised concerns that the new directive could jam up bathrooms and take away from instructional time.
The school is reviewing if the policy is legal under New Hampshire’s plumbing code which demands schools offer one “water closet” per 30 students, according to The Globe. The school has about 1,200 students between the middle school and high school.
The number of stalls are not evenly distributed between both schools and genders, with most stalls being in girls’ bathrooms.
Michaud said installing bathroom stalls in place of urinals throughout the school could potentially cost tens of thousands of dollars.
The bathroom discussions began last fall, when a transgender girl began using the middle school girls’ locker room, Michaud told The Globe.
“Nobody asked for this,” student Autumn Diveley told WMUR during Friday’s walkout. “Nobody but the few parents who complained to the school board asked for this.”
According to The Globe, a similar contentious debate regarding bathrooms is ongoing in nearby Concord as New Hampshire state lawmakers consider bills that could affect transgender students.