Bills would boost gender-neutral bathroom access at Philly City Hall, charter schools

City Councilwoman Helen Gym introduced two bills to advance gender-neutral accommodations in Philadelphia schools and City Hall itself.

(Keith Myers/The Kansas City Star via AP, file)

(Keith Myers/The Kansas City Star via AP, file)

City Councilwoman Helen Gym introduced two bills that would advance gender-neutral accommodations in Philadelphia schools and City Hall itself.

“We have had a lot of experiences where young people in schools or after-school programs or residential treatment facilities, if they are gender non-conforming do not feel welcome,” said Gym.

One of Gym’s bills seeks to require “institutes serving youth” to establish rules of conduct to recognize and protect transgender and gender non-confirming youth that match those already adopted by the School District of Philadelphia.

The legislation would cover all charter schools in the city, each of which sets its own policies, including in regard to transgender accommodations. It would require them to update their standards if the district makes substantial alterations to their policy.

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“We are not aware of any [such policies] that are in place across charters, although maybe individual charter schools might have them,” said Gym. “We want to see charters in particular having accommodations for trans and gender non-conforming youth.”

David Hardy of the charter advocacy group Excellent Schools PA said City Council shouldn’t dictate policy to charter schools. He also questioned whether Gym had done a survey of charter schools to see if any of them weren’t already meeting school district standards.

“The whole idea that it’s for organizations across the city is a rouse. This is Helen Gym finding another regulation to place on charters,” said Hardy. Gym is a longtime advocate of traditional public schools.

The bill would cover any organization that services youth, from recovery centers to after-school programs.

Gym’s proposed legislation would require educational institutions outside the school district to give their staff training on the School District’s transdegender and gender non-confirming policies. Written versions of the policy would have to be placed prominently in a public place.

The other bill is more narrowly targeted.

“We want to make sure there is at least one gender-neutral bathroom on every floor of City Hall,” Gym said. “There’s only one in a remote area of the seventh floor. I dare you to find it.”

Former Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration already secured passage of a law requiring gender-neutral bathrooms in new buildings constructed or renovated by the city.

Gym’s bill would amend that legislation to require that City Hall have a gender-neutral bathroom on every floor. The legislation would also force the Department of Public Property to file an annual report with City Council listing all new gender-neutral bathrooms installed in city buildings over the course of the previous years.

There is only one more City Council session left before the summer recess, which does not leave enough time to pass these bills. They will be taken up during the autumn session.

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