Loudoun County School Board reviews new bathroom, locker room safety plan

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LCPS bathroom safety plan up for debate

Loudoun County Public Schools leaders are working on a plan to make bathrooms and locker rooms safer. They want to add more single-use restrooms within schools. But this plan doesn't sit right with some parents. FOX 5's Nana-Sentuo Bonsu reports from outside the LCPS Administration Building with more on the plan.

The Loudoun County School Board discussed a plan Tuesday to increase safety in bathrooms and locker rooms amid growing concerns over violence, sexual assaults, and drug use in schools around the D.C. region.

FOX 5’s Melanie Alnwick reports students and parents have said vaping and drug use runs rampant in school bathrooms, and administrators say they don’t have enough security to police them all.

At Tuesday's board meeting, members introduced a plan that would create more single-use private restrooms for students and staff.

With help from a firm and an advisory group made up of school principals, a study was conducted, and a proposal was created that would establish an average of six single-use restrooms in high schools, four in middle schools, and two in elementary schools.

Some of these changes are a response to Virginia's Department of Education's model policy and LCPS policy 8040, which protects the rights of transgender students.

In locker rooms, LCPS plans to add a private shower and changing room at each high school and middle school.

While this may sound like a solution for some — especially families with transgender students — other parents say it's dangerous and will only encourage more smoking, gatherings, and even vandalism in bathrooms.

"I am a parent of a transgender child," said Catherine Cote, a Loudoun Co. mother and educator. "He has really benefited from having those single-stall restrooms. He's felt more safe. He's felt more welcomed at school. Previously, he had to travel the entire building to desperately find a place to go to the bathroom, and often, he would wait 'till he got home to use the restroom."

Suzanne Satterfield, a former LCPS parent, said the policy "puts the kids in danger."

"They can lock themselves in. Nobody knows who is in there," she said. "They could be cutting. They could try to commit suicide. They could be doing drug use… sex … The teachers don't have bathrooms. The more single ones they put out."

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Loudoun County School Board to hear plan for bathroom, locker room safety

The Loudoun County School Board will hear a plan to increase safety in bathrooms and locker rooms amid growing concerns over violence, sexual assaults and drug use in institutions around the D.C. region.

In order to provide single-use bathrooms, schools would need to convert some of their staff-only bathrooms to make this work.

One parent, who is also a high school librarian, says she doesn't have a problem with that.

"My students are my number one priority always," Cote said. "I want them to feel safe. I want them to feel included, and if that means I have to walk an extra 20 feet to go to the bathroom, I am very willing to give that up."

The bathroom safety plan also includes a technology study that takes a look into vaping and air quality monitoring inside bathrooms as well as occupancy sensors.

It's a proposal though, and the district plans to roll out a pilot program starting construction at several high schools first. This remodeling project would cost LCPS almost $11 million.

School leaders are working with a firm to finalize the design for the pilot schools by the end of spring. Then, they hope to start construction sometime this summer or fall.

A series of issues over the years led up to the plan. 

In May 2021, a sexual assault was reported in the bathroom at Stone Bridge High School. 

A student was stabbed in a bathroom at Mount Vernon High School in Fairfax County in 2022. Earlier that same year, a teen was shot in a bathroom at Magruder High School in Montgomery County. Most recently, student overdoses were reported in Arlington and Montgomery County schools.