Unisex toilets at London primary school spark outrage among parents

Petition against the facilities attracts nearly 700 signatures from those worried the change could cause rise in sexual assaults

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The Independent Online

An east London primary school has provoked a furious backlash from parents after it introduced unisex toilets for pupils over the age of eight.  

The controversy arose after a new £12m building at Leytonstone’s Buxton School was equipped with the gender-neutral bathrooms.

Despite a petition protesting against the new toilets having nearly 700 signatures on Sunday, the school’s headteacher Kath Wheeler welcomed the change. 

She said the full-height unisex toilets created a safe space where pupils show respect towards each other and feel respected, according to the East London and West Essex Guardian

She also noted the toilets meet Department of Education and Waltham Forest council regulations.

However, parents suggested it would leave children vulnerable to sexual abuse or premature sexualisation. 

"There's already so much child abuse going on and this will increase the situation even more. If anything does happen then the headteacher and other associates will be fully responsible. Totally disgusting,” one parent wrote on petition site Change.org

Another said: “Why would you want girls and boys in the same bathroom? Privacy seems to be out of the window nowadays. This is ridiculous to think it's ok for schools to have unisex toilets. It's difficult to deal with the opposite sexes in normal circumstances, but now you think the children have to deal with awkwardness in the bathroom. Keep their privacy separate.”

Many parents also voiced their disappointment that the school did not consult them. 

One wrote: "This is a terrible idea and has many potential risk to unisex toilets. I am very upset that the school did not even have the decency to consult with the parents of the children, this came as a shock when I was informed by a mother. I would like to know who would be held responsible should there be an incident?”

Another said: “My main issue with this is the lack of consultation with parents. No forum to debate and possibly vote on it. For me, they should introduce it as a continuous thing from nursery/reception not change it half way through a child's schooling. The children shouldn't notice a change. That is what is very wrong. The children are voicing how uncomfortable they feel and children feeling uncomfortable is simply wrong. It's making them more aware of gender differences at an early age and defeating the object.”

Other parents said they supported the measure, suggesting it was a progressive step towards opening up gender norms. 

“Everyone should be able to use the toilet in peace whether in unisex or single sex toilets. Hopefully the kids will be taught to be respectful of each other, whether in the toilets or not," one parent said. 

Ms Wheeler, who is now inviting parents to take tours of the new facility, reminded them that single sex toilets were still available for use. 

“No pupil has to use a unisex toilet if they do not want to,” she told the East London and West Essex Guardian.

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