JEROME — Like many schools across the nation, the College of Southern Idaho is weighing options for offering gender neutral restrooms.
The college’s board of trustees will hear an information item Monday during a meeting at its Jerome center, but isn’t slated to make any decisions.
Across the nation in recent years, more schools — including those in the Magic Valley — have talked about or adopted gender identity policies, covering topics such as restrooms and dress codes. Sometimes, those steps are in response to concerns from students, including some who are transgender.
CSI wants students to feel safe and comfortable on campus, CSI’s dean of students Jason Ostrowski said Friday. “We want to explore what those options are and make sure we’re creating that space for them.”
The topic of gender neutral restrooms came up as a result of CSI student concerns.
“We’ve had a few students — not a lot — who have expressed not feeling comfortable in entering either gender, male or female, bathroom,” Ostrowski said.
It’s in the very early phases of discussion. CSI also hasn’t considered yet whether a gender neutral restroom would be offered just at the Twin Falls campus or also the off-campus centers.
“We want to engage in a conversation with the board of trustees,” Ostrowski said, to get a feel of what their philosophies and thoughts are.
CSI officials have been looking into what some colleges and universities are doing. Most offer a single stall restroom that’s gender neutral, Ostrowski said. “Not assigning a gender to it is what I see most colleges and universities doing.”
CSI vice president of student services Michelle Schutt — who’ll present to college trustees next week about gender neutral restrooms — wasn’t available to comment Friday.
CSI isn’t the only south-central Idaho school to consider the topic of gender neutral restrooms and dress codes. In the Twin Falls School District, trustees adopted a new gender identity and sexual orientation policy in October 2015. It specifically includes language about bathroom access: “Students will be allowed to use the restroom and locker room that corresponds to the gender identity they consistently assert at school.”
The policy — which hasn’t been updated since it was adopted — is based on guidelines the Idaho School Boards Association gave school districts a few years ago. Students also have the option of using a private restroom if one is available.
In January 2016, Kimberly school trustees adopted a gender neutral dress code. It was the first time in 15 years the policy was overhauled.