The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Don Ogle 

Nebraska schools forgo open showers for private stalls


Sidney High School is in line with a growing trend when it comes to student privacy in the shower room.

The Accociated Press reports open showers in school locker rooms are going by the wayside as Nebraska schools build more private stalls.

The trend of phasing out gang-style showers began decades ago, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Today, it could ease privacy concerns of critics who oppose allowing transgender students to use the locker rooms of their choice.

Sidney Public Schools Superintendent Jay Ehler said when the new high school was built in 2009, the school was designed with private showers. It allows students to enter the shower and close a curtain behind them.

Ehler said he didn’t remember specific conversations about the showers during planning for the school, but said he understands students’ desire at that age for a degree of privacy.

“For the most part, many kids are going to have some degree of self consciousness,” Ehler said.

In recent years, at least two Nebraska high schools — in Crete and Elkhorn — and one middle school in the Papillion-La Vista district were built with only private stalls. Kearney’s new high school recently opened with a combination of private stalls and communal showers.

Vanessa Schutte — an architect and K-12 school designer with DLR Group in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota — has planned at least 10 high schools over 12 years.

“Since I’ve been designing schools, I’ve never been involved with what we would call a gang shower — where they have one pole with four or five or six shower heads off of it, or multiple poles — they’ve all been individual spaces with shower curtains,” Schutte said.

Private stalls require about the same space and cost about the same as communal showers, Schutte said.

With an increasing number of private showers and students who say they don’t shower at school, the likelihood students will have encounters decreases.

“Showering isn’t really a thing anymore,” said Jordan Nielsen, a senior at Ralston High School. “It’s just, kind of, you slip out of your gym clothes, because no one ever really gets sweaty.”

Megan Adkins, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, previously taught middle school physical education and coached high school sports. She said that she noticed self-esteem issues keeping students away from the showers.

Elkhorn Superintendent Steve Baker said that with school shower use dropping sharply, critics’ argument that transgender students would be showering with others isn’t as prevalent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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