Councils’ ‘Gender Neutral’ school toilets ignore Children & Young People’s Commissioner Scotland’s call for a Human Rights approach
Last year the Scottish Government opened a public consultation for possible changes to the regulations that govern school toilets and many objections to the option of introducing gender neutral toilets were made. Strong calls from the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (CYPCS) emphasised the importance that “school toilet facilities (be) compliant with human rights duties and informed by International standards”, with specific warnings where “infrastructure and management standards of school toilets are poor there is a risk of a breach of children’s rights under the UNCRC”. The government thereafter published the analysis of these responses and their plan to draft new Regulations for parliamentary approval in early 2018 was never progressed.
The CYPCS’s submission was strongly evidenced, citing both child rights law and research they undertook on school toilets, ‘Flushed with Success’, which most importantly included the views of children. The evidence highlighted the profound effect that school premises can have on children and young people’s educational opportunities and …..
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There has been a lot of media attention recently about the controversial introduction of ‘gender neutral’ pupil toilets in schools. The various interpretations of the term ‘gender neutral’ has only added to the confusion so it’s important to be clear from the outset that it means mixed sex toilets as they are not in fact what we would widely recognise as standard single user accessible Unisex toilets.
Apparently, this has been done as it reflects our moving society, but is there really a demand for mixed sex toilets in our workplaces, shopping centres, restaurants and pubs? Whenever I’ve raised concerns about this, I’m informed that it’s just the wash area that’s mixed sex, no big deal, right? I can only speak of the goings on in Female toilets so I know in addition to washing our hands, we also adjust our clothing, brush our hair or apply makeup. How many of us would be comfortable with that when strangers of the opposite sex are standing at the next sink? But it’s acceptable for children and teenagers? …..
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The Scottish Government opened a consultation between 17 July 2017 and 9 October 2017 with proposed amendments to these regulations, including the introduction of Unisex facilities.
Currently, Regulations 15/16 of The School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967 state that the Sanitary Accommodations for pupils are to be split half for boys and half for girls. This applies both for WC and wash area. The Regulations make no reference to unisex facilities.
It was widely reported at that time, articles detailing these proposals featured within The Scotsman and The Times. There were many critics of these proposals, presumably mostly from parents worrying about an increase of bullying and sexual harassment and the obvious fact that girls and boys like to have privacy from one another. However, we learned that these ‘Gender Neutral toilets’ were already common place across Scotland and had been for some time. If that was the case then why the need to amend the Regulations now, surely this established practice already met with the standard requirements. Campaigners for the proposals welcomed the announcement, reminding us that we have already have gender neutral toilets in our homes …. this type of response isn’t helpful nor does it address any of the valid concerns that parents had …..
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Council states that the introduction of Gender Neutral toilets within its schools is ‘in line with guidance from the Scottish Govt’.
Which guidance would this be?
The Regulations surrounding school toilets hasn’t changed, so where does this guidance come from?
Having realised that the Regulations hadn’t changed I thought that Parents should write to the Councils,
But as it turned out a simple tweet to the Council provided the answer I was seeking ……
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Regarding (Name of school / Details of recent building works )
Regulations 15/16 of The School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967 states that the Sanitary Accommodations for pupils are to be split half for boys and half for girls. This applies both for WC and wash area. The Regulations make no reference to unisex facilities.
The Scottish Government opened a consultation between 17 July 2017 and 9 October 2017 with proposed amendments to these regulations, including the introduction of Unisex facilities. The analysis of responses to the public consultation exercise by the Scottish Government was reported by them on 10 January 2018. To date, the Scottish Government have taken no further action and the existing Regulations remain.
It is my understanding that any new building or significant alterations to any existing building must meet the current Regulations and it would be unlawful for (Name of council) to apply any other standards that do not meet these requirements. It is my understanding that the Sanitary Accommodation for pupils within (name of school) do not meet Regulations 15/16, namely that schools must provide separate single sex facilities, with half for boys and half for girls. (Name of school) accommodation consists of ( — describe situation, Unisex stalls only, no single sex wash area & no single sex WC facilities —–). It would appear that (name of council) have incorrectly applied their standard of ……
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Dear Dundee City Council
Regulations 15 & 16 of The School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967 state that the Sanitary Accommodations for pupils are to be split half for boys and half for girls, this applies for both WC’s and wash areas. The Regulations make no reference to unisex or ‘gender neutral’ facilities. Additionally, the requirements for the building standards for new school builds and school extension buildings are detailed within the Technical Handbook which accompany the Building (Scotland) Act 2003.
Section 3.12.1: Sanitary facilities states
Separate male and female sanitary accommodation is usually provided. This should be based upon the proportion of males and females that will use a building, where this is known, or provide accommodation for equal numbers of each sex otherwise.
Unisex sanitary accommodation may be provided where each sanitary facility, or a WC and wash hand basin, is located within a separate space, for use by only one person at a time, with a door that can be secured from within for privacy
Section 3.12.6: General Provisions required in all Sanitary Accommodation states …..
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Similar open letters were also sent to the following local authorities –
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