1 In 1900: Improving The Washroom Status At KSS



An agonizing pain builds inside of me as I wait in line holding my bladder for upwards of twenty minutes. Students pass by and witness my visible discomfort, not only in my body, but in my mind as I feel embarrassed for my static presence in a parade of a hallway. When I am finally able to go to the bathroom, I feel the pressure of time as I know there are still people in line feeling similar to how I do. I’m late for class, and anxious about the whole experience. My teacher expresses disappointment towards my tardiness, and it only perpetuates a feeling of hopelessness inside of me because of the ignorance towards my reality. 


What’s worse, is if I am subjected to using binary washrooms due to the unbearable wait. As someone assigned female at birth but identifies as trans-masculine, I can’t seem to shed the internal turmoil of not respecting my own identity while in the girls washroom. In the boys washroom, I fear violence and hate speech as a result of my presence, and am saddened by the lack of menstrual disposable methods just because it’s associated with a certain gender. In any case, using the washroom at school is a daunting experience, and my story is just one of many common experiences of gender diverse students here at Kelowna Secondary School. 


When asked about his experience with the universal washroom, Grade 12 student at KSS Max Blackwell shares that he’s often “unable to go to the washroom during break due to the wait,” reiterating this comunal frustration. KSS alumni Miles Porter similarly shares that “it’s usually a pretty clean bathroom, but because there’s only one stall the line can be long.” The constant wait is one of the major concerns brought forward by people who need access to the resource. Blackwell also suggests “that teachers try using staff bathrooms before they turn to the universal one,” to allow students better access to the resource. 


On November 3rd, parents, other students, and I met with administration to discuss the concerns raised. This meeting was a result of pent up frustration of the queer community as a whole, as a series of anonymous notes were left in the singular universal washroom by students, expressing their input. I participated in the call to action, by leaving a note, as I have expressed my concerns to the administration directly before, and was met with no concrete solutions. The signs were repeatedly ignored and taken down by staff until they started to gain traction in the form of conversations in the student body, and spread to social media. 


I gladly met with Mr. White, and Ms. Hughes once they agreed to hear me out. Accompanied by members of the community and their families, we discussed issues of inaccessibility, discrimination, teacher use, and most importantly: plans to expand inclusive washrooms at KSS. It was mutually agreed that having one stall to accommodate the large gender diverse community, within the even larger student body of over 1900 students, is inadequate. They assured us that they will take discrimination seriously, and they urge students to report incedents as soon as possible so they can properly assist in the situation. Recent hate speech and overall ignorance has been brought to their attention, and it’s our job as students to hold them accountable by doing our part. Aka; reach out. To the principals, counsellors, teachers, peers, friends, and if you don’t feel comfortable with any of those resources, reach out to me, seriously


The school district has been working on installing several floor to ceiling stalls in KSS, and the order to do so was actually approved in 2019. However, due to understandable unexpected reprioritizing of the district budget, and Covid, construction has been pushed back. If all goes well, construction could start as early as this summer. In the meantime, Mr. White has offered to open up another staff bathroom in the upstairs mathematics hallway to students as well, opposite to the current universal bathroom in the upstairs humanities hallway. This bathroom is open to be used as of November. 5th. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s also just the beginning of proper inclusivity. So while there are temporary accommodations that are being made by the administration to alleviate some of our struggles, as I testified to in the beginning of this article, plenty of action is still needed.


You can find the universal washrooms at the stars on the map that follows:


As for the controversy of students and staff sharing washrooms, and no specific washroom being designated to the minority, conversations are still being had to discuss further action in this respect. There are 18 stalls in the gendered girls washrooms throughout the school, and the equivalent of stalls and urinals for gendered boys washrooms. Now with 2 universal washrooms that anyone can access, and 1 resource washroom for special needs students, there are only 4 designated staff bathrooms for the more than 160 employees. It’s important to consider the frustrations from all perspectives, as washrooms are clearly a bigger problem than even I certainly thought, affecting more than just the LGBT2QIA+ community. 


The foresight of our present washroom demands were poor in the initial construction of the school, but that is being considered in the construction of all new schools and renovations in the district. Moving forward, all washroom facilities in School District 23 will reflect the washroom closet model, as already in effect at Mount Boucherie Secondary School in West Kelowna. This model includes several single stall toilets with shared sinks in an open space, diminishing the need for gendered bathrooms at all. You can see the washroom closet model here:









MBSS alumni Beckham Scott-Zvanitajs provided some insight about his experience with the washroom closet model. He touches on the community response to the project, and admits that “students were confused about the project at first… but overtime it has received overwhelming support for being a facility for all students to have access to regardless of how you identify.” His cisgender perspective adds to the fact that inclusivity is appreciated by, and benefits all. 


Relating his experience to our current frustrations at KSS, Scott-Zvanitajs shares that keeping our school to the same standard “is a necessary change as the student population of KSS is ever expanding and has to meet the needs… of incoming students attending the school.” This testament is true, with how students here have continued to share their experiences, and with how administration is slowly but surely working towards diminishing the issue. If you are interested in learning more about facility planning, you can see all recent facility plans within each school in the district here.


If you want to be a part of the conversation, you can do so by joining the Diversity Club who meets every Tuesday in room 237 at lunch. Beyond that, on November 16th an extended Diversity Club meeting is taking place where members of the School Board and Human Rights Committee will be present at lunch to actively hear our concerns and suggestions. There is also a google form survey you can fill out to help the school collect more data and insight on the issue. 


At the time of writing, the survey has more than 230 responses with 49.1% of people identifying under the transgender umbrella. 55.3% of responders expressed that they avoid using the washroom at school because they feel uncomfortable. 76.3% of responders agreed that having more universal washroom options would make them feel more accepted and safe. Finally, it’s generally understood by 82.6% of responders that having more universal washrooms does not equal more “outing” or intolerance, but actually the opposite. 


That being said, one survey responder raised the concern that “some students might take advantage of the bathrooms,” again, taking away from those who actually need it. It’s the schools job to protect the washrooms from being misused, and the students’ responsibility to do our part in not misusing them. It’s not uncommon that the people using the universal washrooms are experiencing discomfort with navigating their identity and the washroom use that goes along with that, so alienation and stigma must be diminished.


The anonymous responses from the survey include several more suggestions to better the bathroom situation at KSS, as well as LGBT2QIA+ inclusivity in general. One responder expresses that they “weren’t even aware we had a universal washroom, and that the school needs to make it more known, and inform people on where it’s located.” Another suggestion is to “have a set time aside to educate teachers on LGBT2QIA+ issues and how to use proper terminology, as well as enforce the use of pronoun sheets.” Needless to say, there’s a lot to consider. 


The more people who express their experiences and concerns will contribute to the construction of more inclusive facilities. By not letting this issue die down, it will help reprioritize the project and ensure a construction start date, as well as increase the quality of both student and staff life while at school. Be a part of the solution. Make your voice heard. Advocate for your peers. Do it for the betterment of the school, and all the issues relating to the washrooms. But if not for anything else, get involved as a favor to me, and my poor suffering bladder.