Fights break out over LA’s first ‘gender-neutral’ school bathroom

The protests occured in the wake of the anti-gay ‘bathroom bill’ movement which has divided people across the country


Rachael Revesz
New York
Thursday 21 April 2016 14:14
Campaigners joined forces with students to support their bathroom for all students
Campaigners joined forces with students to support their bathroom for all students

When the second largest high school in Los Angeles opened its first gender-neutral toilet, it wasn’t the students who protested.

The bathroom initiative was led by the school’s Gay Straight Alliance, who managed to gather more than 700 signatures for their petition.

“All-Gender Restroom,” read the sign on the door at Santee High School when it opened last week.

Protesters then duly arrived from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, according to a police officer. The Kansas-based group is known for anti-gay picketing the funerals of soldiers, brandishing insulting signs.

The group also protested at Wilson High School in Washington two years ago during its gay Pride day.

On Tuesday they stood opposite the Santee school in LA. A video shows one man dressed all in black, shouting into a loudspeaker.

“You’re going to burn in hell, Santee. Oh, yes.”

Students threw bottles of water and fruit at the protesters and a brawl broke out. One student was detained, but no one was charged or injured, according to the Los Angeles School Police Department.

Westboro Baptist Church members said they would return the next day. Former Santee teacher Ron Gochez organized a counter-rally with the Union del Barrio, a political group in San Diego, to support the students, as reported by KLTA.

On Wednesday, no protesters turned up. Instead, students and campaigners waved rainbow flags and held signs saying: “Keep Calm, It’s Just A Toilet”.

“Yesterday, a small group of adults unsuccessfully attempted to discredit the brave actions of our students by protesting against the school’s recently approved gender-neutral restrooms,” Santee Principal Martin Gomez said in a statement. “Above all, we want to ensure the safety of our students despite outside factors and influencers.”

Some parents of the high school students have expressed concern that their sons and daughters might be bullied or abused in the new bathroom, but school officials said this activity could happen in any bathroom.

Santee student Alonzo Hernandez, a 16-year-old who transitioned from female to male last year, told the L.A. Times that he avoided using the bathroom for days.

“I just want to be able to use the restroom without being questioned,” he said.

Versions of the "bathroom bill" have rippled through the US, concentrating on the southern states, where lawmakers have gained momentum in passing bills that restrict and discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

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