SAGA students spark action against recent bathroom misuse


Jace Arriaga

A SAFE SPACE NOT A VAPE SPACE: SAGA members plastered signs outside of the gender-neutral bathrooms in the new facilities.

Jace Arriaga, Online Managing Editor

You walk through the entrance of the all-gender bathroom, admiring the sleek look of the new facility. You step in, but what you see is not what you expected. The smell of plywood and new concrete is only a faint memory, now replaced with the pungent smell of vapes. Your ears ring as a group of students shout, clumped together in a mosh pit. There’s not enough space. Hesitantly, you retreat out of the restroom, a feeling of annoyance brewing inside.

In the past few weeks, the all-gender restrooms on campus have reportedly been misused and vandalized by students during lunch, FIT, and passing periods. Students in the Sexuality and Gender Acceptance Club (SAGA) created fliers to advocate against the misuse of the all-gender restrooms. The initiative was first brought up at the latest SAGA meeting.

“We were talking about things that we wanted to change in the school,” junior Elliott Head said. “Someone brought up how dangerous it was in the bathroom and we all just sort of started coming up with more stories that we heard about stuff that happened in there.”

The fliers were posted outside of the bathrooms and were shared through social media. The postings have sparked varying reactions from students.

“We were handing them out outside of the bathroom during second lunch,” Head said. “A group of dudes took a bunch of fliers and they went into the bathroom with them and balled them up and used them to clog the sink.”

Senior Rogue Clawson has mixed feelings about the gender-neutral restrooms.

“On one hand, I was happy to have a space where I didn’t feel pressured to conform to any gender,” Clawson said. “But on the other hand, I was really annoyed that people were being selfish and making the restroom unusable.”   

English teacher and club sponsor Bree Rolfe has been providing support to SAGA to help navigate this issue. 

“One of my students sent me a Remind message that was like, ‘this is what I’d like to discuss at the next meeting,” Rolfe said. “This is like, really, people are afraid to use the restroom. I went down there to look, since it’s not my duty station. It was not good. What they had been reporting to me was true, and maybe a little worse than what I had thought. Since then, I’ve just been sitting with my students to just be an extra adult presence.”

Rolfe is an active member of Education Austin, a union that focuses on issues pertaining to employees and educators throughout AISD. 

“I just basically taught them the structures that we use in Education Austin,” Rolfe said,  “Where you pick your actions, that kind of escalates like if this doesn’t work, we’ll try this. And then we split off into little subcommittees.” 

Last year, the fine arts hallway was closed to student use as renovations were underway. The new facilities opened at the beginning of the semester, including male, female, and gender-neutral restrooms in the H hall.

“I don’t think we as a staff did a good job of educating the kids on what an all-gender restroom is for, ” Rolfe said. “Our feeling behind this entire campaign is that if we speak to the student body and explain it, that this is one of two safe spaces for transgender or non-binary students to use the restroom, that they will do the right thing and respect the space.” 

The bathroom includes only three stalls, one being a changing space.

“There’s a stall that doesn’t have a toilet, but it’s a changing stall. It’s for transgender students that don’t want to change for dance or PE in front of a big group of kids,” Rolfe said. “What I would like is for teachers to help, and so my students have been reaching out to their teachers about hanging signs in their room, or working on a video to distribute to other teachers to play.” 

Through vandalism in the restrooms, even a trashcan fire, and reports of inappropriate activity in restrooms across campus last year, this isn’t a new problem for Bowie. 

“I surveyed my sophomores and a lot of them were like, I never use the restroom at school. They’re dirty, they’re gross, I feel uncomfortable, and that’s sad,” Rolfe said. “You shouldn’t have to hold your bodily functions for eight hours a day.” 

Principal Mark Robinson announced through morning announcements that the bathrooms are supposed to be a safe space for students under the transgender umbrella and are not a space for inappropriate activities. Two at a time rules proposed by SAGA have been implemented in the gender-neutral bathrooms. Supervisors are placed in the hallway outside of the restrooms to enforce this rule.

“I don’t want this to be just a SAGA issue,” Rolfe said. “SAGA’s a decent-sized group, but I would also like other clubs, especially our other clubs that deal with other marginalized groups to get behind us and join in on this campaign together so that we can take our school back and make it like a nice place to be. I don’t want anyone to feel unsafe.”