Separating the toilets according to gender is over at a school in Ulm. Will the idea of neutral toilets catch on elsewhere?
It now exists at the Sägefeld School in Ulm: one toilet for everyone. Whereas in the past there was a distinction between toilets for boys and girls, today there is only one common toilet for all older students at the primary and secondary school, as headmaster Cornelia Euchner explains. And that works extremely well. Apart from a few exceptions, what has been part of everyday life at the Ulm school since this spring is not yet an issue at most schools in Germany. Will there be one soon? Developments in some federal states speak in favor of this.
The reason for the so-called unisex toilet in Ulm was the “desolate condition” of the previous school toilets, as Euchner says. These were constantly damaged and were also lying in the schoolyard, where they were also accessible to strangers. For a new building, the suggestion for a “toilet for everyone” quickly came up. Even if there were initial concerns among teachers and students, everyone quickly got used to it, says Euchner.
No more urinals
The new toilet only has cubicles, the urinals are passé. The wash basins are clearly visible through floor-to-ceiling windows. Outside the breaks, the students only come in with a digital chip.
Mona from class 7a says she’s gotten used to the fact that boys are in the room. Ibrahim from 9a especially likes that the toilet is new. Headmistress Euchner also sees appreciation from the students in the new toilet. Since everyone now uses the same toilet room, a separation according to gender also takes a back seat and possible discrimination does not even arise. For the elementary school students, a third of the approximately 300 students, there is another toilet – separated for boys and girls.
The chairman of the state parents’ council in Baden-Württemberg, Michael Mittelstaedt, considers so-called unisex toilets in schools to be a “pragmatic approach”. They are a sensible and economical solution for an upcoming new building.
Schoolchildren are increasingly demanding unisex toilets
So far, however, gender-neutral toilets are not widespread in German schools. A unisex toilet has been available at the Goethe-Gymnasium in Freiburg since the beginning of the year, a spokeswoman for the city said. In Tübingen, the city has received an application to set it up in all secondary schools. Berlin has also had experience with unisex toilets.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, demands for unisex toilets are getting louder. At the moment there are still rather few in NRW, says Laura Körner, head of state school student representation on request. But the desire on the part of the students is “continuing to increase”.
Principal believes society is moving towards the toilet for all
So far, gender-neutral toilets have not been an issue in Saxony, for example, according to the State Office for Schools and Education. In Bavaria, too, Henrike Paede from the state chair of the Bavarian Parents’ Association sees no interest in the topic among the broad majority. She also suspects only a small spread.
But Ulm school principal Euchner is convinced that society is moving in the direction of the toilet for everyone. And at her school she is already there.