New York Law Requires Gender-Neutral Single-Occupancy Bathrooms in School Districts and BOCES

Harris Beach PLLC

On December 23, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed Assembly Bill A5240A into law, requiring, in part, that school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in New York state designate all single-occupancy bathroom facilities as gender neutral. In addition to school districts and BOCES, the legislation also applies to certain higher education institutions, non-public schools, charter schools and public places including restaurants, bars, mercantile establishments and factories. The new requirements become effective on March 23, 2021.

Policies and Procedures

School districts and BOCES have specific obligations which are set forth under new section 409-m of the Education Law. Namely, the board of education of each school district and BOCES must develop “policies and procedures” requiring that all single-occupancy bathroom facilities be designated as gender neutral and “for use by no more than one occupant at a time or for family or assisted use.” School districts and BOCES must develop policies (for board of education approval) and procedures in accordance with the law’s requirements and March 23, 2021 effective date. It has yet to be determined whether the state will issue any further guidance on what the required “procedures” must entail. However, presumably, one board policy with an accompanying regulation or procedure should be sufficient.

Clear Designation of Gender-Neutral Facility

The law also requires that single-occupancy bathrooms be “clearly designated” as gender neutral by posting on or near the entry door of each bathroom. In other words, school districts and BOCES with single-occupancy bathrooms must remove any signage designating the bathroom as “male” or “female” and replace it with signage designating the bathroom as gender neutral, and for use by no more than one occupant at a time or for family or assisted use.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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