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Challenge to gender neutral toilets at new high school

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By Christie Breen
Dumfries and West
Challenge to gender neutral toilets at new high school

CONCERNS over same-sex toilets included in the proposed plans for Dumfries High School has prompted the involvement of For Women Scotland.

Parents contacted the women’s organisation to voice their concerns about same-sex toilets in a school setting.

In response, For Women Scotland have sought legal advice about the legality of same-sex toilets and written a letter to the chief-executive of Dumfries and Galloway Council, which stated: “The introduction of mixed-sex facilities has been an ongoing problem at many schools throughout Scotland with numerous reports of children feeling too uncomfortable or embarrassed to use toilets shared with the opposite sex, leading to health issues as well as more serious incidents as such as doors kicked in, camera use and sexual harassment of girls.

“As a result of this widespread concern and the doubtful legality of mixed-sex toilets we sought a legal opinion from discrimination and human rights senior counsel, Aidan O’Neill KC.

“Mr O’Neill concluded that there is an enforceable requirement for schools and local authorities to provide separate-sex toilets for boys and girls under (a) the School Premises Act which specifies the minimum number of sanitary facilities for each sex dependent on the size of the school roll, and (b) the legal obligation to prevent or prohibit harassment related to the pupils’ sex and which can be perceived by pupils as having the effect either of violating their dignity or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them .

“We have been advised that there are strong grounds to pursue a legal case against any school failing to uphold their obligations to provide single-sex toilets and we would support any pupil or parent wishing to do so.

“In our view, it is entirely foreseeable that children, especially girls, will suffer harm and we would recommend that the council seek urgent legal advice and take immediate steps to ensure the new building will provide separate sanitary facilities for each sex in compliance with the relevant legislation.”

Copies of the letter have also been sent to the council’s head of education, building standards, planning enforcement team, as well as Ryder Architects and the headteacher at Dumfries High School.

Dumfries and Galloway Council were contacted for comment.


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