Students will share unisex toilets when Brisbane’s newest high school opens early next year.
Fortitude Valley State Secondary College will be the first of school its kind in Queensland without specifically designed boys’ and girls’ separate bathrooms in a bold move that has been slammed by parents and experts.
The Department of Education has confirmed all toilets at the $80 million vertical high school will be unisex, with the exception of two male and female toilets in change room facilities in the St Paul’s Terrace precinct, which won’t open until later in 2020.
Year seven students starting high school at the new Brookes Street precinct next month will have access to 12 lockable, self-contained unisex cubicles which all have hand basins, in addition to disabled facilities.
Brisbane’s new Fortitude Valley State Secondary College (pictured) the first Queensland school to have unisex toilets. The first students start there next month
Education expert and mum Michelle Mitchell described the move ‘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 told The Sunday Mail.
‘Being a teenager is a really big time of change, for boys and for girls, and kids have a right to feel safe.’
The seven storey St Paul’s Terrace precinct, which will open later in 2020, will provide more than 50 lockable ‘floor to ceiling’ unisex toilet cubicles with shared basin areas.
The department has sparked controversy over the bold move of unisex toilets (stock image)
The department says the move is in line with modern, state-of-the-art, vertical high schools in other states, including South Australia’s Adelaide Botanic High School.
‘The toilet facilities at Fortitude Valley State Secondary College meet contemporary design standards in relation to accessibility, inclusivity, privacy and safety,’ a department spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Each unisex toilet cubicle is lockable in line with contemporary best practice and underpinned by safety considerations.’
Opposition education spokesman Jarrod Bleijie fears the ‘very bad’ move could be a ‘recipe for disaster’.
Fortitude Valley State Secondary College won’t be the first Australian school with unisex toilet facilities when it welcomes its first students early in the new year
‘I reckon boys and girls need and deserve their own privacy at school,’ Mr Bleijie posted on Facebook on Sunday.
‘How about instead of this PC rubbish the government spend more time helping our teachers with workload issues, air con our schools, declutter the curriculum, fix the school maintenance backlogs and better support our teachers in regional and remote Queensland. Labor have its priorities all wrong.’
The Facebook post sparked a divided response.
‘These kids are at high school why do we have them sharing the same toilets when so many other aspects of their education needs to be improved. Also young ladies and men need their privacy,’ one person commented.
Another added: There is no way I would send my kids to a school that has that! Especially being the mother of girls. not that it’s just girls sexually abused, then there is bullying and underage sex. Our schools really aren’t safe environments anymore.’
But many others couldn’t understand the fuss.
Toilets at the school will consists of lockable, self-contained unisex cubicles (stock image)
‘Nearly every accessible facility for disabled people is a unisex facility, and, last time I looked, nearly every household, you know where these kids live, has unisex toilet facilities! There are bigger issues than this that deserve attention,’ one person commented.
Another added: ‘I think this is a fantastic move and is more representative of what our modern state requires, kids are struggling with their gender identity they will have a safe space to use as a bathroom, as they might not feel comfortable in the boys/girls facilities.’
Schools in Western Australia were urged earlier this year to include ‘gender-neutral toilet options’ and in a bid to stop discrimination against transgender students.
The recommendation from Inclusive Education WA, a specialised resource for schools in the state, aims to create a ‘more inclusive environment’ for transgender and gender diverse students.
Fortitude Valley State Secondary College Fortitude Valley State Secondary College is the first inner-city state school to be built in over half a century.
It will also push back class times to avoid traffic chaos, with students urged to walk or cycle to school to ease congestion in the inner-city.