Carlos Aragon also contributed to this article.
A previous article on this story has been published on student voices regarding the implementation of the gender-neutral bathrooms. This article focuses more on the administrator's planning and future plans.
At the start of the year, Principal Chris Mastrangelo announced that gender-neutral bathrooms had been added to Malden High School, prompting a whirlwind of emotions and confusion from the student body.
Mastrangelo had been trying to get these bathrooms in for “a few years,” stating that one of his biggest goals and passions is to “make sure that everybody feels safe and welcomed” at Malden High School, which was one of the biggest reasons behind the urgency in opening them.
The gender-neutral bathrooms were intended to give students a “safe-space” as the administration recognizes that some students identify as nonbinary or genderfluid. Mastrangelo said that the school does not wish to “contribute to dysphoria” and wanted to create a “safe space with the gender-neutral bathrooms for students that identify as such” to feel comfortable enough to use the restrooms throughout the school, without having to choose between one of the gender-specific bathrooms.
Despite the intentions behind the creation of the bathrooms, the students’ voices were clear that change needed to be made. Mastrangelo recognized that the school’s intent to create a “safe space” for non-binary and gender fluid students went “exactly opposite” to what they planned.
Senior Matthew Scott expressed that they felt as though the bathrooms were “a safe space on paper, but in reality it was just not, because literally anyone could walk in.”
Scott thought that it would make more sense for the bathrooms to be labeled as “gender non-conforming” rather than “gender-neutral” as there is a key distinction between the two. Scott explained that by having the “gender-neutral” title it implies that “a man can walk into a bathroom and a woman can walk into a bathroom and be in the bathroom at the same time.”
With gender nonconforming it is more like a “nonbinary student can walk in or a trans-masc can walk in but they don’t have to be there at the same time.”
Though the purpose of the gender-neutral bathrooms was to provide students who do not identify as either male or female to feel comfortable enough to use the restrooms throughout the school, this quickly did not become the case. Boyle House Principal Stephanie Sibley stated that the intent of the bathrooms was “not for them to become co-ed bathrooms,” which is what administration saw happening and ultimately it “defeated the purpose of creating a safe space.” Sibley had to “kick out” many students who were misusing the restrooms and expressed that it “really bothered” her that they were not “respecting the intent behind designating the bathroom.”
Scott expressed the same sentiments, stating that they think the school “didn't make a distinction” with the gender-neutral bathrooms, as they recalled a time they had a couple friends that were both male and female that walked into the bathrooms and it was completely fine that a woman or a man walked in. Scott expressed that this is “unsafe, especially . . . with high schoolers.”
Sibley recognized that “it's a small number of students that were not respecting the intent” but “sometimes that's all it takes to mess something up.”
Some students have different opinions and view the problems with the bathrooms as something that had more of a positive impact at Malden High School.
Junior Lyra Gold stated that they felt as though the bathrooms were a “step in the right direction” and were not being misused “any more than the binary bathrooms were,” although it is worth noting that they felt as though it did not make it “any less frustrating.”
Gold believes that administrators should “do what they can to keep the bathrooms open,” and feels like it is a “loss that they're really not being maintained the way they were supposed to be.”
With all of the students' voices in mind, Mastrangelo and the rest of the Malden High School administration have come together to form an alternative to the current gender-neutral bathroom situation in order to restore the initial intent for the restrooms.
Mastrangelo has confirmed that they will be converting two of the faculty bathrooms located on the second and third floors of Jenkins to act as Malden High School's new gender-neutral bathrooms.
Mastrangelo stated that the difference between the bathrooms that they are currently using, which “can fit 30 people, hence the issues,” and the faculty bathrooms is that the faculty bathrooms can only fit one or two people at a time. They are going to remove the lock that goes into the actual bathroom because they “can’t have kids locking themselves in” and they are “putting stalls around the existing toilet.”
Mastrangelo stressed that “everything is all in order” and they are waiting for the partitions to come in. He is “hoping that it is done soon” as he did tell the company to “put a rush on it.”
Jenkins House Principal Jayson Payeur pointed out that Mastrangelo has been “working really, really hard to get this piece in, and he's been doing everything he can on his end to get it in.” He added that that they are still waiting for the word but are in “dire need to get those in to support our students that identify as nonbinary or genderfluid.”
Payeur stated that he looks forward to when Malden High actually has the “appropriate gender-neutral bathrooms in place for those students,” expressing that it is “super important” and he “really cares about them.” Payeur really wants to make sure that the school is “also meeting their needs'' and he feels like right now “things could be better for them.”
Despite the introduction of the gender-neutral bathrooms starting off on a negative note, Mastrangelo and the rest of the Malden High School administration stated that they are working towards improving the atmosphere for the students and making everyone feel comfortable and safe within the high school.
Mastrangelo recognized that administration may not be perfect but their “intent was pure” even if the “impact was not.” He continued, saying that “as the building leader I need to do better.” Mastrangelo also noted that Malden High School is trying “really hard so that everybody has an equitable opportunity to be successful.”