Backlash as school secretly installs unisex toilets
A QUEENSLAND co-ed Catholic school secretly installed unisex toilets over the holidays without consulting parents - and the principal only alerted families after distressed children came home and complained.
The principal of St Eugene College, at Burpengary north of Brisbane, bizarrely claimed in an email to the school's blindsided parents two days after classes resumed that it was trialling a gender-neutral approach because it "matches what happens in family homes".
It further outraged parents who had no idea boys and girls in some year levels would be sharing toilets until their children complained, with one girl telling her mum: "we go to toilets with boys now".
The school recently refurbished its Marian building and installed a block of unisex toilets for Year 3 and 4 students.
It was thought to be a Queensland first, after the new Fortitude Valley Secondary College scrapped its plan for unisex toilets following outrage and a declaration from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk that boys and girls should have separate bathrooms.
After The Courier-Mail contacted Brisbane Catholic Education, the Burpengary principal sent another email to parents which said due to feedback, the school would designate girls-only and boys-only toilets from Monday.
Fearing retribution for their children, parents had anonymously expressed outrage that their children were to be used as guinea pigs for the trial.
When a mother questioned a teacher at the school she said that they responded, "We've decided we're only building unisex toilets in our new buildings."
"None of the parents were told, none of them were consulted, it was a tyrannical move," the mother said.
"I have no issue with them building a unisex toilet block; my issue 100 per cent lies with the fact that it's the only option available for my child.
"My daughter comes home telling me it 'smells like pee and the boys have weed everywhere'."
In a letter to parents on Thursday, principal Marisa Dann said the school was trialling an approach that allowed every student access to any of the toilets, and urged them to "please accept my apologies for not alerting you to this trial earlier".
"This matches what happens in family homes, many contemporary public and school facilities, and is an efficient use of the resources available," she said.
One father said there was a clear difference between shared toilets at the school and in family homes.
"Children are children, and comments that are made by children of the opposite gender, even if only inquisitive by nature, can lead to harmful long-term impacts on a child," he said.
Another father had said he was concerned about the potential for sexual assault.
The sensational backflip still frustrated parents last night.
"It changes nothing, how are they going to police it, how are they going to stop girls and boys walking into the other ones?" a parent said.
"There's still a space at the top of the cubicle, you could still stand, or climb, and see right over.
"The middle two cubicles will still have that issue of being next to either boys or girls, and you will still be faced by peers of opposite sex as you walk in and out.
"This is a last-ditch effort, it's embarrassing."