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Primary parents' fury over unisex toilets

By Gordon Calder

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Farr High School, Farr Primary School, Farr School, Bettyhill, Unisex Toilets, Donna Mackay, Highland Council
Farr High School, Farr Primary School, Farr School, Bettyhill, Unisex Toilets, Donna Mackay, Highland Council

A PLAN to install unisex toilets at a north coast primary school has shocked parents and has been branded "unacceptable" by the mother of two young girls.

Donna Mackay from Naver, Bettyhill, has started a petition to try and get the Highland Council policy changed.

She says parents have not been informed or consulted and claims having shared toilets will be "uncomfortable and embarrassing for children of both sexes".

Mrs Mackay said: "I have been made aware that when Highland Council carries out a refurbishment in their primary schools it is now their policy to install unisex toilets. This is happening in Farr primary in Bettyhill.

"It means that boys and girls from primary one to seven are expected to use the same facilities.

"This is being done without informing or consulting parents whose children it affects.

"A five-year-old girl in primary one is expected to go to the toilet on her own and could walk into the toilet where there are a group of older boys. Girls in primary seven, who could be starting puberty and having to deal with all that goes with it, are now facing this along with boys in the same facilities.

"In my opinion this is unacceptable. It could also be a catalyst for bullying or worse."

Mrs Mackay is not opposed to a non-gender-specific toilet at the school but feels it should be "alongside traditional segregated toilets". She started her petition last Monday and received almost 400 signatures in just over 48 hours.

"It seems a lot of people are shocked to learn that this is the policy of Highland Council and are totally against it," she said.

"As a parent of two little girls who will be attending this school I have some very serious concerns.

"As an adult I would not expect to have to share toilet facilities with men at work or in a supermarket and I cannot understand why the children should be expected to."

Mrs Mackay has written to north MSP Gail Ross and to the school expressing her concern.

She has also contacted the parent council to see if it has been consulted on the issue.

Other parents are also unhappy with the plan.

Charlotte Mackay said: "Primary ones are only just getting used to going to the toilet by themselves. It's going to cause unnecessary anxiety and isn't fair."

Stefani Rice commented: "I personally feel that this is just an opening for bullying in schools and more children feeling self-conscious. I myself wouldn't use a unisex toilet so why should we expect our children to?"

Joanna Mackenzie said: "My husband and I feel this is gender inequality rather than equality. It removes specific privacies we feel are necessary when growing up and introduces unnecessary anxiety.

"By amalgamating boys and girls in a single unit I'm sure it will accentuate gender differences, awareness and nervousness which I imagine is the opposite of the policy's intent. I just cannot see how this could possibly be seen to promote equality."

She added: "The lack of consultation and awareness seems unjust."

A Highland Council spokeswoman said: "This is not a new feature in new Scottish school construction projects.

"Toilets such as these are in other Highland schools, including the new Wick campus.

"Each toilet cubicle is a sealed unit for privacy and there are centrally located wash hand basins. This approach to toilet provision has been found to reduce instances of bullying, improve behaviour and reduce vandalism."

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