The girl students of North Down All Girls School have started a protest against the new measures to close the bathroom in the school during class.
That rule, recently brought into force at Glenola Collegiate in Bangor, means that now only three single disabled toilets are available for pupils to use at the school, which has over 1000 students.
Nearly 700 students and parents have already signed an online petition asking senior management to reverse the new policy, which they say is humiliating students who have to use toilets. When in, you often have to queue for 20 minutes.
Students say that a sign on one of the handicap bathrooms that is available for use warns them that ‘there is no ventilation’ and that students should ‘use this loo only to urinate’.
When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, Glenola Collegiate said the school would not comment on the petition.
Students and parents are taking to social media to express their anger over the policy.
One student explained, “Currently the rule is that during lessons, all student bathrooms are closed, bar three single disabled bathrooms.”
“Glenlola admissions numbers are about 1000 students; this means we have less than one toilet per 300 students.
“While I understand that there is no clear minimum requirement for how many toilets a school should have per student, the Department of Education’s ‘Advice on School Campus Standards’ gives an example that is “per 20 for students over 11.” One toilet for the students will suffice. ,
“What we are experiencing at Glenlola goes far beyond that guidance. That same department advice sheet states that all bathrooms should be “adequately ventilated and lit,” although at my school, a bathroom has a There is a sign saying in no uncertain terms “no ventilation here”.
Also, the latter part of that sign says, “Use this loo only to pee” which I find completely ridiculous.
“Overall, these bathrooms are unhygienic, bins are overflowing with paper towels, not to mention the risk of COVID-19 with more than 1000 pupils on the same surface (in a room with no ventilation) for five hours a day. touch for longer than that.”
Bangor councilor is a past student of Connie Egan School and said there are concerns after the rules were introduced without explanation.
“It is hard to imagine why these rules have been introduced without a comprehensive explanation from the school,” the Alliance councilor said.
“Girls and young women need to use bathrooms for a variety of reasons and they should be freely and openly accessible to those who need them.
“I have signed and supported the students’ petition, their voices need to be heard and respected in this policy. I hope the school will take note of this,” she said, and she voiced concerns. A meeting with the school to raise is requested.
“The health and well being of the students should be given topmost priority and I have requested an urgent meeting with the principal to discuss the matter on behalf of the concerned parents and students in the school.
“I have recently taken up this matter with the Commissioner for Children and Young People of Northern Ireland, Kaula Yasouma. I will continue to engage with parents, pupils and the school community for a positive outcome.”
Pupils said the purpose of the petition is to persuade senior leadership at the Glenola Collegiate and the Board of Governors to reopen all student bathrooms “so as to allow the waiver of the upwards of 20 minutes of class time queuing to use the bathroom.” To prevent and reduce the humiliation caused by students below 11 years of age.
Last month, a bill was introduced in the NI Assembly aimed at addressing the period of poverty in Northern Ireland.
If passed, the bill, brought to Stormont by SDLP legislator Pat Katney, would make period products free of charge in all schools, colleges and public buildings.
Among comments online on Glenola collegiate policy, one said: “It is absolutely disgusting that so many girls are expected to use just three toilets during class time. Girls have human rights and at a time when Girls are fighting to highlight period poverty, it is completely shameful to have 1000 girls using three toilets.”
The Education Department has also been contacted for comment.