Primary school under fire for bringing in unisex toilets
A primary school is under fire after introducing gender-neutral restrooms as part of a recent refurbishment, with parents claiming the unisex toilets could result in "sexualised behaviour" among children.
Buxton School, in East London, says the new unisex toilets are for pupils who are aged eight and over. Younger children use toilets that are attached to their classrooms.
Speaking to the East London and West Essex Guardian, executive head-teacher Kath Wheeler said that the toilets have created safe spaces where pupils show respect towards each other and feel respected.
Wheeler also noted that the unisex facilities meet local council regulations.
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However, parents at the school are not impressed by the new imitative and have started campaigning to have the new toilets closed. A change.org petition calling on the school to restore traditional segregated facilities has already reached over 800 signatures.
Ehasan Karim, who started the petition, says that parents don't want their children to be part of a social experiment. He writes: "We believe the decision to introduce unisex toilets will disrupt the hygiene, privacy, safety, security and the wellbeing of the children attending Buxton School.
"We fear that it may potentially cause an increase in sexually related incidents, including assault and harassment."
He continues: "We are concerned about the introduction of unisex toilets at our school.
"Failure to act upon our concerns will only motivate us to expose locally and nationally the decision to creep this idea into ours schools with no justification, consultation or notification to parents/guardians of those children who this decision will impact."
One concerned mum told the Guardian that she thinks unisex toilets will initiate more sexualised behaviour among the children. "Having the unisex toilets will allow nothing but more mischievous behaviour," she said.
Likewise, another mum from the school said that unisex toilets will lead to children becoming sexually active at an earlier age. "This leads to more sexual assaults and problems, children are too young to understand the implications," she said.
But some parents say they don't see what all the fuss is about. In fact, some believe that the new toilets are progressive and will make life easier for trans and non-binary students.
"Everyone should be able to use the toilet in peace whether in unisex or single sex toilets," said one mother. "Hopefully the kids will be taught to be respectful of each other, whether in the toilets or not."
While there is some support for the new toilets, a poll in the Guardian shows that the majority of parents are very uncomfortable with the idea. However, while school Principal Wheeler hopes that concerned parents will get used to the gender-neutral facilities, she has also explained that single sex toilets are still available.
"No pupil has to use a unisex toilet if they do not want to," she said.