SMMA’s Matt Rice featured on BSA Panel: All-Gender Facility Configurations in Schools

All-Gender toilet room study

On March 4, 2021, SMMA’s Matt Rice was a featured speaker during a Boston Society for Architecture (BSA) presentation on “K-12 Educational Design: All-Gender Facility Configurations in Schools.” 

How school buildings are constructed concerning gendered toilet and locker room configurations significantly impacts this significantly at-risk student population's psychological and physical well-being. This presentation analyzed the rationale for and current barriers to implementation and proposed solutions for future school construction projects to embrace the concept of all-gender facility design.

Matt was joined by Jeff Perrotti, the founding director of the Massachusetts Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students, Dr. Elizabeth Homan, the current Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction in Waltham, MA, and Roger Bourgeois, a recently retired school superintendent and current elected vice chair for the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth. 

The group was also joined by several young adults and parents of students who have experienced the stressors that come with traditional binary gendered restrooms in their schools. They shared poignant stories and provided context for webinar participants to better understand the subject at hand, summarizing the psychological and physical impacts to transgender, non-binary, and transitioning students associated with toilet and locker room usage in schools. The anecdotes shared similar undercurrents: 

  • Disruption to learning due to:
    - Fear of bullying 
    - Time spent having to get to restrooms that are deemed “usable” for them
       (i.e., in a nurse’s office, teachers’ restroom, etc.) 
    - Anxiety related to identity  
  • Physical illness as a result of holding it 
  • Feeling excluded 

The remainder of the discussion centered on current plumbing code requirements in Massachusetts that limit opportunities for multi-user all gender school toilet room design; analysis of different toilet room and locker room designs in K-12 schools with respect to inclusiveness; and plans for all gender toilet and locker room facilities in K-12 school designs that allow for future flexibility to leverage potential Massachusetts plumbing code changes.

Stay tuned for more insight on the subject coming from SMMA as we hope to realize this design change to allow for safer and more inclusive school facilities.