SPORTS: ‘I don’t know what’s taking so long’

All-gender locker rooms experience delays in SCUSD schools

In efforts to create inclusive spaces on campus for all students, middle and high schools across SCUSD are beginning to construct all-gender locker rooms.

At SCHS, students who need all-gender locker rooms are currently using the team rooms. To make these all-embracing spaces more accessible, a portable next to the training room will be renovated to be used as an all-gender locker room.

According to Vice Principal of Activities Sharon Freeman, SCHS’s locker room was initially planned to be completed in Oct. 2022, but the locker room is still not available due to delays.

“Timeline-wise, it was supposed to be done by October, but it was delayed,” Freeman said. “Now, it just needs to get done.”

Physical education teacher and department chair Julie Kawamoto hopes to see the locker room in place as soon as possible. While the team rooms are being used right now, there are sometimes delays in the time they take to open, inconveniencing students.

“If our current area is not open, these individuals have to walk through a locker room in order to get a key to open it,”’ Kawamoto said. “We always sincerely apologize, but they should not have to walk through in order to get a key. I know it (the all-gender locker room) is all something that is in progress, but it is super irritating.”

Kawamoto expressed disappointment towards the delay in construction of the locker rooms.

“I really feel sad for these individuals. They just want a place to feel okay and safe and comfortable,” Kawamoto said. “Right now, we are providing something, but it is just not good enough.”

A lack of space contributes to the delay, which many schools have, yet Kawamoto believes they must prioritize creating safe spaces.

“A lot of schools don’t have space, which is really unfortunate because you have to provide a space,” Kawamoto said. “I don’t know what’s taking so long. I really don’t.”

As this is a district initiative, middle schools are also receiving all-gender locker rooms. Freeman appreciates these efforts and believes they create a sense of safety for students, something that is not yet in place.

“For students that advocate for themselves and have always been advocating for themselves, they have always been able to use the team room, or something else,” Freeman said. “This will open up horizons for students that don’t feel as comfortable advocating for themselves but still need that safe space.”

Freshman Mariah Vasconcellos agrees. Vasconcellos used to be involved with Cabrillo Middle School’s Gay-Straight Alliance in middle school and helped their club in its efforts to advocate for all-gender spaces. They are excited for the new locker rooms to be available to all students this school year.

“All-gender bathrooms and locker rooms are really going to help with kids’ self-esteem and their safety on campus,” Vasconcellos said.

Cabrillo is one of the middle schools in the SCUSD implementing all-gender locker rooms. According to Cabrillo art teacher and GSA club advisor Sara DeWeese, the school has allocated space for the locker room, yet the timeline is not finalized yet.

DeWeese appreciates the district’s overall efforts toward creating inclusive spaces at SCUSD schools.

“On a broader scale, the district is working towards more inclusive language in their policies and getting feedback from all parties: teachers, students, parents and admin,” DeWeese said. “I feel like the district is really listening to the people who are attending the sessions.”

With these efforts, DeWeese hopes to see more training for staff as well as a more inclusive curriculum to foster safe environments in the classroom.

“Additional training for staff around the LGBTQIA+ would be good to help us understand the issues our students are navigating and how best to help support them. I believe most teachers are supportive, but we can always learn more to be better at supporting all our students,” DeWeese said. “I know that it is slow moving, but as we choose new textbooks, we should be making sure they also show inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Vasconcellos is appreciative of the district’s current efforts and hopes the district can also promote diverse history curriculum in order to allow for more representation.

“Ignorant and hateful mindsets start at a young age because of a lack of education,” Vasconcellos said. “I want middle schools and younger people to realize that even if they are different from other people, that doesn’t mean they should feel bad about themselves.”