School toilets have never had the best of reputations. What with bullying, smoking and lobbing balls of wet tissue on to the ceiling, pupils have traditionally headed there for mischief. iNews reports.
For teenagers with gender dysphoria, school toilets, with their stark boy/girl divide, pose an additional trauma. But what if schools were to install gender-neutral bathrooms instead?
That is the question being put to thousands of children at secondary schools across the UK as part of a Royal Institution-backed initiative to get children thinking differently about science.
Hundreds of schools are expected to download the RI’s debate kits, which give pupils different roles to play, from concerned father to transgender teenager, to reflect a wide range of perspectives on what is a sensitive topic.
Meanwhile some medics have raised concerns this week about how children are being treated by the NHS’s Gender Identity Development Service, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists is drawing up new guidelines on how to deal with trans cases among young people.
Dom McDonald, the RI’s head of education, admits the organisation was braced to “cop a bit of flak” for encouraging schools to tackle the issue of gender and sexuality.
“We tried quite hard to avoid this topic,” he says. “But the more we thought about it, the more we thought this topic crystallised many questions around identity and genetics; nature versus nurture; and social, ethical and moral considerations.”
The RI launched its debate kits in 2017 as a way to consolidate the theme of its high-profile Christmas lectures, which are broadcast on BBC Four. In December, Professor Alice Roberts tackled the question of who are we, with help from geneticist Aoife McLysaght.
At Francis Holland, an all-girls’ school in west London, the bathrooms may remain single sex, but that didn’t stop a group of Year 11 pupils from tackling the issue at a recent lunchtime debate. The discussion ranged from dissecting the very meaning of gender to considering whether toilets should remain “safe spaces” for those who are born biologically female.
Allie Rinck, one of the school’s science teachers, says the kit helped to “contextualise the science within a societal issue that is interesting and engaging to teenagers”.
Facts gleaned during the debate ranged from complex science, such as how chromosomes not matching up correctly during meiosis can lead to an embryo with the sex chromosomes XXY or XYY, to how adults treated newborn babies differently depending whether they wore pink or blue clothing.
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter – Tamsin
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