Omaha North High offers additional bathrooms for the comfort of students



Shelbie Rudiger, Magazine writer

Omaha North High offers up a secondary bathroom option in the nurse’s office for students who do not feel comfortable using the main MPC, first, second and third floor bathrooms. This alternative was put in place mostly for LGBTQIA+ students but is up for grabs for anyone who might need it.

The Omaha Public Schools (OPS) current policy states that students are permitted to use the bathroom that corresponds with their consistently asserted gender identity within the school. The district policy has existed for the past five years, but the official option of the nurse’s bathroom was only available within the last couple of years at North.

According to the OPS Equity and Diversity Civil Rights and Discrimination Guide, OPS does not discriminate on the basis of gender identity or gender expression.

“Under no circumstances may students be required to use gender-segregated facilities that are inconsistent with their gender identity,” as stated in the OPS Gender Identity Equity Guidelines.

Allison Iles, a North High Counselor, has been one of the designated people students go to when they have issues regarding gender or sexuality. She has become this aid to students due to her open support to the LGBTQIA+ community and her leadership role with the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA). Iles helps not only her assigned students, but she also helps any students in need of her assistance.

“I always provide that option, they don’t have to, they can go, they absolutely have the right to go to any bathroom that they choose,” said Iles.

Every student at North has the choice of using the single-stall bathroom in the nurse’s office but only about 20 students use it consistently, according to Iles. Due to the location of this bathroom sometimes it is too much of an inconvenience to students who would prefer to use it.

Vincent Minard, 10, was offered to use the nurse’s bathroom when he brought up the issue in GSA his freshman year. Minard also received support from the GSA community and Dr. Nero when he requested a name change form.

“It is more inconvenient when you are on the third floor and you have to go all the way down just to use the bathroom, but sometimes it is really convenient because there’s not anyone to judge you for going into the one restroom,” said Minard.

Multiple representatives of North claim that they would like to continue support and make new adjustments to ensure student safety and comfort while attending school. The dilemma is that North’s building is old and hard to architecturally change without extensive expenses or inconvenience to everyone.

“It’s better than a lot of schools and I am glad. That’s why I work for OPS, I don’t care what anyone has to say about it,” said Sydnie McNeal, a North English teacher and sponsor of GSA.

It is difficult to consider adding another bathroom to North considering how students currently misuse their privilege. Some use the bathroom to skip classes, to avoid responsibilities, to mess around, or to participate in activities they wouldn’t want staff to see.

“I know a lot of adults would have a huge issue with having male and female students in the same bathroom. I think the whole problem is right now we have a culture where the bathroom is kind of like a free for all and so until we actually have the expectations and kids are actually following those expectations, [nothing can be done]” said Illes.

Aside from the nurse’s bathroom and the three floors‘ main bathrooms, a few students have found that another bathroom provides them with more comfort and security.

Aiden Beguedou, 10, will use the choir’s back bathrooms because they have more privacy and are identical to one another. Beguedou was glad the nurse’s bathroom became an option for students but when he found out about the choir bathroom it was his “saving grace.”

Many students still end up going to the main bathrooms rather than the nurse’s, either because they are in a rush or because they are limited on time outside of the classroom. They end up having to compromise their comfort to go relieve themselves.

“I just want to use the bathroom, but it’s like [other students] are there, sometimes trying to talk to you and you get a bit of dysmorphia with it because it’s like you’re in there, you look like them, but you don’t feel like them,” said Beguedou.

Many staff members and students at North High have done their part to make the building a more inclusive, safe space for everyone, but some issues will take more time and planning.