Restroom at Risk

And how you can help.


Keana R. Butterfield

SPASH student walking into the gender neutral bathroom. Photo credit Keanna Butterfield.

Keana R. Butterfield, Hour 1

Equality is something that can not be debated. SPASH has been working toward equality for its students in the past few years, and though it may take longer than we want, and may not be as massive of a change as we need, they are trying. 

One thing SPASH did to help with equality was add gender-neutral bathrooms. Outside the doors of the auditorium, there are two separate rooms labeled as “Gender neutral bathrooms” This was a very welcomed addition to SPASH from the community of people who need/want to use gender-neutral bathrooms.

Of course, we are in a high school, and bathrooms will always be used for something different than they’re intended.

Bogus Bathroom Problems

Before we go into the topic of people using bathrooms for unintended reasons, we should probably talk about why it is a big deal. Commonly in cartoons, and real life, if someone did something they weren’t supposed to, with something they weren’t supposed to, that thing was taken away and they were punished. Now think about that in this setting. Students get caught using the bathrooms for unacceptable purposes and they get taken away.

Students are already dealing with the boy’s restroom being locked up constantly, mainly due to cleaning, and of course, the occasional “drug bust.” Now just imagine how this would affect an already oppressed community of minorities, like those who need/want to use gender-neutral bathrooms.

Another thing that should be covered is the difference between someone who is “cisgender” and someone who is “transgender.” The title “cisgender” refers to people identifying with their biological or genetic sex, and “transgender” is someone whose gender identity or expression does not match what they were assigned at birth.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of individuals who don’t know the purpose of gender-neutral bathrooms if not for their little hideout. The gender-neutral bathrooms are less for the people who need to use them, and more for those who get upset seeing “non-cis” people in the girl’s or boys’ restroom. I have seen countless posts on SPASH students’ social media stories about “I don’t care if you identify as ‘X, Y, Z’ you shouldn’t be in the girl’s bathroom.” 

So for some reason, people are so worried about someone of another gender being in “their” bathroom. I asked a few SPASH students what their thoughts were on the topic and there were some interesting answers.

Sara Bouchette, a SPASH senior, said, “I feel like it shouldn’t matter. As long as you are what you identify as and are comfortable you should just be allowed to use the bathroom.”

Matt Waushlager, a SPASH graduate had no idea that the bathrooms were added, as he left before they were implemented. Not knowing what they were he stated “I’m glad I left before they were [added.] If it was a one-room bathroom that’d be better,” Which obviously, anyone who has actually used the bathrooms knows that it is a one-room bathroom. “but I feel like a lot of people would use bathrooms like that [gender-neutral bathrooms] to take advantage of girls.” A lot of people are scared of things they don’t understand, like gender and neutrality or equality. Because of that fear, it causes them to hate or assume things, even though they don’t fully grasp that concept. The assumption that a bathroom made specifically for no specific gender would lead to assault is a common one.

This may be a genuine fear but little to no crimes of that nature have been reported. Now, that does not mean it isn’t happening, but the difference in non-cisgender students reporting assaults is incredibly noticeable. states, 36% of transgender or non-binary students reported being sexually assaulted or harassed in the year 2019, when not allowed to use the restroom of their choice.

UCLA Williams Institute of Law states “Transgender people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to be victims of violent crime.”

Everything here shows how these restrooms are incredibly important for the safety of our LGBTQ+ youth. Without a safe place for people to do something as simple as go to the bathroom, it puts people at risk of assault. Even though some people may believe otherwise, a bathroom made for everyone and anyone is a helpful and safe place for those who need or want it.

Potty Problems

The dirty floor of the gender-neutral bathrooms (Keana R. Butterfield)

When, less formally, asked about their thoughts on gender-neutral bathrooms, a lot of students said things that weren’t expected. “The water pressure is so high on the sinks” or “The toilets flush so much louder than the regular bathrooms.” as well as the obvious, “It always smells weird in there.” Just this morning while using the gender-neutral bathroom I was overwhelmed by the smell of cigarette smoke. Since it is currently winter, many students noticed that the floors were incredibly slippery and covered with melted snow. But, this even happens in times other than winter when it is hot and dry. 

As Alissa Bushe states “The faucets suck. They’re way too powerful and spray everywhere.”

Now, when in the gendered bathrooms, there are normally wet floor signs put up, as well as someone to clean up, but when rechecked at the end of the day, the gender-neutral bathrooms stayed wet throughout the day. 

After showing Colton Klesmith, a SPASH graduate, the new gender-neutral bathrooms, he stated, “The sink is shooting everywhere. My shirt is all wet and so is the floor.” after the automatic toilets flushed, he came out covering his ears, “Holy […] that flush echos like crazy!”

Whether you are someone who needs, wants, or purely uses those bathrooms out of convenience, there is no denying that there are many physical issues.

Vaping Vagabonds

Other than basic hygiene standards not being met, a growing problem at SPASH is the number of students being caught with drugs, specifically vapes, dab pens, marijuana, or pills with unknown effects. Of course, drug use has been a problem since the dawning of time. Humans will find any way to relieve their pain or anxiety and if there’s a fun drug trip involved, the chance of younger and younger people using those substances is heightened.

Now, this isn’t an article on drug use or even whether it is right or wrong, this article is about bathrooms. What do drugs have to do with bathrooms? Well, how many times have you walked into the restrooms, any of them, and smelt that sweet coconut or strawberry lingering in the air? It could be an excellent air freshener the janitors hung up, or it could be the youth of Wisconsin inhaling flavored air to feel better about themselves.

Leah Stiff, a SPASH senior spoke gave her experience with the issue “I love [gender-neutral bathrooms] but people misuse them so sometimes they’re in there for 15 minutes smoking and I just want to go to the bathroom.” 

Of course, being caught using drugs in the bathrooms, or anywhere as someone underage, the punishments can vary from drug counseling to juvenile detentions, and even probation, and of course if you’re caught at SPASH that’s a suspension for you. In this instance, it isn’t the drug use that is the issue, it is the place in which you are choosing to use drugs which is, in turn, ruining the chances of a minority group being able to be comfortable and keep others comfortable. 

Sleeping and Skipping

Student finds odd decorations in the gender-neutral bathroom (Keana R. Butterfield)

Though not as common as people smoking in gender-neutral bathrooms, sleeping in them is close on that list. Putting aside the obvious unhygienic nature of sleeping in a public bathroom, bring into consideration the fact that there are only about three or four gender-neutral bathrooms in the entire school, at least student-accessible ones. Now if someone decides that the health office is too full, or just isn’t for them, and needs a place to crash to skip an hour, why not choose the only room that has one, lockable, door? 

Of course, taking up a bathroom for reasons other than using the bathroom is just plain disrespectful. When people need to use the restroom, that’s what they need to do, and if the only bathroom they feel comfortable and/or allowed in is being taken up by some sleepy student, it would take extra time out of their free time and learning time to go and find the other gender-neutral bathrooms. 

Believe it or not, there is another type of sleeping that students like to do in the privacy of a public bathroom. Maybe some students might just want a secret place to make out and yes, there is nothing wrong with wanting to share a kiss with your significant other, but why the bathroom? People do their business there, why would you want to have a (supposed to be) romantic moment in a place where people defecate?

Consider Your Next Call of Nature

Even though it may seem like an annoyance, consider when you are using gender-neutral bathrooms if you are using them for the correct purpose. Some people genuinely need those rooms and it is SPASH’s job to make sure everyone feels comfortable and safe in the building. Students like Allisa Busche, a SPASH senior. They vocalize their support of gender-neutral bathrooms, stating “I pretty much only use them. They make me feel secure and comfortable.” Without a safe and clean place for youth to do something as simple as using the bathroom, we will build up to a lot more problems in the future.