School’s ‘ridiculous’ bathroom rule angers
STUDENTS will have to share unisex toilets when a new, multimillion-dollar school opens in Brisbane next year.
In a Queensland first, the all-new $80 million Fortitude Valley State Secondary College will not separate boys and girls' bathrooms.
Instead, the Department of Education confirmed the school would be fitted with self-contained gender-neutral cubicles and shared basin areas. The only exception is the change room, which will have two male and female toilets.
Those toilets won't open until later in 2020, but year 7 students starting next month will have access to 12 lockable, self-contained gender-neutral bathrooms.
The decision has not been taken lightly by parents and experts who have slammed the move as "ridiculous".
"We already know some really bad things happen to kids in bathroom areas of schools - bullying, sexting, kids recording on mobiles, these things already go on when they're just within their own sex, and then you're adding in an extra element," education expert and mum Michelle Mitchell told The Sunday Mail.
"Being a teenager is a really big time of change, for boys and for girls, and kids have a right to feel safe."
The seven-storey St Paul's Terrace precinct will provide more than 50 lockable "floor to ceiling" unisex toilet cubicles.
On Sunday, Opposition education spokesman Jarrod Bleijie branded the decision a "very bad" move and a "recipe for disaster".
"I reckon boys and girls need and deserve their own privacy at school," Mr Bleijie wrote on Facebook.
"How about instead of this PC rubbish the government spend more time helping our teachers with workload issues, aircon our schools, declutter the curriculum, fix the school maintenance backlogs and better support our teachers in regional and remote Queensland. Labor have its priorities all wrong."
According to the Department, the move is in line with modern, state-of-the-art, vertical high schools in other states, including South Australia's Adelaide Botanic High School.
"The toilet facilities at Fortitude Valley State Secondary College meets contemporary design standards in relation to accessibility, inclusivity, privacy and safety," a department spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia.
"Each unisex toilet cubicle is lockable in line with contemporary best practice and underpinned by safety considerations."
The installation of gender-neutral toilets has sparked a massive divide, with some agreeing it was an "unsafe" move and others comparing them to disabled toilets, which are also shared.
"C'mon guys, nearly every accessible facility for disabled people is a unisex facility, and, last time I looked, nearly every household, you know where these kids live, has unisex toilet facilities. Get over it! There are bigger issues than this that deserve attention," one person commented.
One woman said there was "no way" she would send her kids to a school with unisex toilets.
"Especially being the mother of girls, not that it's just girls sexually abused, then there is bullying and underage sex. Our schools really aren't safe environments anymore," the woman said.
Another person said it would be fine if the cubicles were all separate, but having shared hand basins would be a "real issue".
"I can think back to when I was a teen and all my insecurities and embarrassment around boys, I would have been horrified to take a bowel movement while anyone of the opposite gender was in the room; not to mention that time of the month," the Facebook user explained.
Clinical psychologist Dr Judith Locke told The Sunday Mail sharing facilities could lead to potential problems, such as girls feeling uncomfortable using the toilets while menstruating.
"If they are trying to change things to suit what we are experiencing in a modern society, we should allow opportunities to test them," Dr Locke said, saying it was important the school takes on student feedback once it is in operation.
Fortitude Valley State Secondary College is the first inner-city state school to be built in Brisbane in over half a century.