New state school to have unisex toilets
STUDENTS will be share gender-neutral toilet facilities at Brisbane's new $80 million vertical high school, in a move slammed as a "recipe for disaster".
The Sunday Mail can reveal the Fortitude Valley State Secondary College has been specifically designed without boys' and girls' separate bathrooms - the first of its kind in Queensland.
Instead, self-contained cubicles with hand basins will be used by Year 7 students starting next year, while the seven-storey St Paul's Terrace precinct will be fitted with gender-neutral cubicles and shared basin areas when it opens in late 2020.
The only exception in the school will be two male and female toilets in change room facilities.
Brisbane education expert and mum Michelle Mitchell said the decision was fraught with potential dangers for students, branding it "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," she said.
"It feels like some basic rights are being taken away from these kids - that's an intense thing to say, but its true.
"Being a teenager is a really big time of change, for boys and for girls, and kids have a right to feel safe."
The Department of Education said the school's design was in line with "modern, state-of-the-art, vertical high schools in other jurisdictions", and said the cubicles would be lockable with the surrounding areas open for "safety and supervision".
Clinical psychologist Dr Judith Locke said there was a potential for problems with teenagers sharing facilities in close proximity, such as girls feeling comfortable while managing menstruating.
She said it was crucial the school listened to student feedback on the toilet situation once it was operating.
"If they are trying to change things to suit what we are experiencing in a modern society, we should allow opportunities to test them," she said.
"Private cubicles might be a better way for schools to go, and I'm confident they will be assessing what works."
But LNP education spokesman Jarrod Bleijie slammed the decision as a "recipe for disaster".
"It is insensitive to the privacy of both young boys and girls deserve," he said.
"Local parents have a right to be concerned about how this is going to be safe for all students.
"The last thing teachers need to do is make sure people are behaving appropriately in the school toilets."
Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates was aware of the new design, and said it was about "inclusion and accessibility".
"Every toilet in our home is unisex, so it's not that unusual," he said.
"The whole design of the school is new and ground-breaking, and I think we will see broader considerations for these kinds of design from now on."
Mr Bates said he did not believe the decision would cause problems for teachers managing behaviour.