Students at schools across England have been protesting their institutions’ unisex restrooms in recent days, and footage posted on social media shows some of the protests have become unruly.
Local media outlets in the United Kingdom reported children in Southampton, Essex, Blackpool, Yorkshire and other cities have all participated in the demonstrations over gender-neutral restrooms.
The Grantham Journal wrote that it had received multiple calls from parents and pupils about unisex toilets at local schools, and the newspaper cited “bullying issues” as a central complaint. Reportedly, female students have said boys unlock the doors while girls are using the toilets or try to take photographs.
Some people are saying TikTok is partially to blame for the spread of the protests, including Principal Jess Leonard, of Grantham’s Walton Academy.
“Towards the end of last week we became aware of a new trend on the social media platform TikTok. Today, some of our students joined this protest on the academy site, along with other young people across the country,” Leonard said in part in a statement to the Grantham Journal.
A video posted on TikTok of Southhampton’s Weston Secondary School’s protest shows a large group of students chanting “toilet rights” while marching on the facility’s grounds as some pupils made obscene hand gestures. In other TikTok clips of similar protests at other schools, students are seen scaling fences, overturning chairs and stomping on school books.
The protests have varied in size. At Walton Academy, around 50 students reportedly took part in the demonstrations. Meanwhile, the Daily Echo wrote that about 200 students participated in a recent protest at Weston Secondary School.
Along with expressing dissatisfaction about sharing restrooms, some female students at the protests are voicing their grievances over other issues. One of the major complaints is about alleged strict school rules that leave pupils waiting for hours at a time for a break or lunchtime before they are permitted to use toilets.
There’s also a matter of cleanliness. One parent told the Grantham Journal that her daughter said girls at her school were not using the restrooms at school “because they are left in a bad state by some pupils.”
Principal Leonard’s statement emphasized her school supports the pupils demonstrating, as long they remain peaceful.
“We fully respect the right for our students’ voices to be heard, and indeed the right to protest. However, we have reminded our students that a protest should be a last resort after all other channels of communication have been exhausted,” Leonard said, according to the Grantham Journal.
Despite the protests about the unisex restrooms in England, advocates for such spaces have pointed out how sex-segregated toilets can cause difficulties for transgender and gender-nonconforming students.
GLSEN (formerly the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), an American education organization that focuses on LGBTQ issues for K-12 students, posted on its blog that its research found “nearly two thirds of transgender students avoid school bathrooms because of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable.”
“Feeling unsafe, uncomfortable, and at risk of illegal disciplinary action, these students might ‘hold it’ or restrict intake of fluids, risking pain and dehydration,” GLSEN wrote. “Some of these students even leave school altogether. These outcomes are not positive in any way, for any one.”
Newsweek has reached out to Walton Academy and Weston Secondary School for comment.
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