Woodall Public Schools bathroom

Some single-use restrooms at Woodall Public Schools were labeled as family restrooms before Senate Bill 615 was passed.

TAHLEQUAH — Oklahoma just passed a state-mandated restroom bill, but some Cherokee County rural schools had already adopted a policy for single-use bathrooms and changing areas.

The Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives passed State Bill 615 on May 19. The bill states: “To ensure privacy and safety, each public school and public charter school that serves students in prekindergarten through 12th grades in this state shall require every multiple occupancy restroom or changing area designated as follows: For the exclusive use of the male sex; or for the exclusive use of the female sex ... a reasonable accommodation shall be access to a single-occupancy restroom or changing room.”

Briggs Public School Superintendent Stephen Haynes said the school already had single-occupancy restrooms in place, and it has had a minimal effect on operations so far.

“We have identified multiple-occupancy restrooms and changing areas for exclusive use by [gender], as well as ensuring single-occupancy restrooms and changing areas are available for those – transgender, etc. — who wish not to comply with the law,” said Haynes.

Most schools – such as Woodall, Briggs, and Shady Grove – already had single-use restrooms and changing areas in all of their buildings before the policy went into effect.

Shady Grove School Superintendent Emmett Thompson said that district’s policy, like many other schools, was furnished by the Oklahoma State School Board Association and was approved by the local board of education.

“Our school has several single-stall [restrooms] that we have available if we have students or patrons who are uncomfortable using a bathroom of their [gender],” said Woodall Public Schools Superintendent Ginger Knight.

Knight said Woodall has at least one single-use restroom and changing area available to their students, staff, and patrons in each building. Knight said they have not had any issues or complaints since passing the policy.

“We have not had anybody ask to use [a single use bathroom]. We have in the past but not this year,” Knight said.

Woodall, like many schools, updated the policy at its last school board meeting on Sept. 12, after the state added new disciplinary actions to the policy.

Students may now be subjected to disciplinary action listed in the student code, staff members may be subjected to disciplinary actions, and patrons could potentially be removed from the premises.

“We want to make sure all of our students are comfortable at our school so we will provide what we need to provide to make sure that happens,” said Knight.

Other Cherokee County schools were contacted for comment, but were not able to provide one at this time, including Peggs, Lowrey, and Grand View.

Tenkiller Superintendent Marilyn Dewoody stated the school’s board has approved the required policy created by the OSSBA. Norwood Superintendent Keith Fisher said his school is following OSSBA guidance and policy as well, which was approved by the board of education.

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