The academy in which I trained had strict rules about students going to the toilets, it was not permitted during lesson times. Staff who wished to release students in contravention of the rules had to find a key for a staff toilet and tell the student to go quickly.
One head of department seemed regularly to break the academy rules. One day, he explained.
“I never refuse a girl’s request to go. I’ll tell you why. I had a Year 8 class one time and it came to break time and I told them they could go. One girl did not move. I told her again that she could go and she said, ‘I can’t, sir.’ She was sat in a pool of blood. She hadn’t asked to go to the toilets during the lesson because other teachers had refused. I went to find a woman teacher to give her help.”
The situation had become worse for girls in the school because, in a misguided belief that it would promote equality, it had opened a new single sex toilet.
A female colleague said the girls in her tutor group would not now use the toilets unless it was absolutely necessary. They would try to hold on until the end of the day.
“You know what teenage boys are like. You know how crudely they behave. How do you think it would feel to be a teenage girl having her period to have to go into a toilet block filled with such boys?
It was hard to argue with such plain common sense.
“Toilet humour” is not named thus for no reason. Unless teenage boys have undergone an entire personality change, they would seize upon the presence of girls as an opportunity for crude comments.
It was disappointing to read that an Irish school has gone down a similar path and introduced “shared toilets.”
The RTE report carries the story of the shared toilets as an element of a boys’ school becoming co-educational. It is an unnecessary confusion and a sensible decision to allow boys and girls to be educated together seems to have become a stalking horse for gender neutrality.
It is hard to imagine that the Year 8 girl afraid to move from her chair, or the girls waiting seven hours to go to the toilet because of the fear of embarrassment, would feel that equality principles should trump biological facts.
How many parents would want their daughter to be reluctant to use the toilet because the school authorities have allowed the boys to use the same facilities?
Shared toilets represent a dis-empowerment of girls and achieve the very opposite of promoting equality.