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Glenlola Collegiate says ‘TikTok vandalism craze’ forced toilet closure

Pupils launch online petition against new rule


Glenlola Collegiate in Bangor

Glenlola Collegiate in Bangor

Glenlola Collegiate in Bangor

Glenlola Collegiate in Bangor has blamed a TikTok craze over its introduction of new measures to restrict toilet openings during class times.

The North Down all-girls school said it was forced to act after concerns from parents and pupils. 

Pupils have started a protest over the new rules which mean only three single disabled toilets are made available for the pupils to use at the school during lessons.

The school has over 1,000 pupils.

Almost 700 pupils and parents have already signed an online petition hoping to get senior management to reverse the new policy, which they say is humiliating pupils, who then often have to queue for up to 20 minutes when the toilets are in use.

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In a statement the school said it was dedicated to the health and wellbeing of pupils and the steps taken had the full support of its board of governors and the measures would be reviewed.

Its statement said: “Several weeks ago, following concerns from parents whose daughters reported groups of girls gathering in toilets as a consequence of a TikTok craze, throughout Northern Ireland, to vandalise those spaces and make video recordings using mobile phones of the damage, temporary measures were rapidly put in place to protect the privacy of pupils who were reluctant to visit the facilities as a consequence of this anti-social behaviour.

"Groups of pupils had, by prior arrangement been meeting in the toilets during lessons to engage in these behaviours. This necessitated new, temporary arrangements to be put in place."

The school said all toilets were open before lessons, at breaktime, at lunchtime and after lessons end.

“During lessons, no request to go to the toilet is refused and pupils must use one of the three toilets close to the centrally located reception area to ensure that anti-social behaviour does not occur.

"Additional toilets will be made available when needed during lesson times. These toilets are regularly cleaned and also stocked with products that enable the users to sanitise the space they are vacating, in line with Covid hygiene routines.

"The school was built in 2003, in accordance with the Department of Education requirements and therefore all toilets are fit for purpose. The selective closing of toilets during the school day is not an unusual measure at the current time and has been employed by other schools for similar reasons.

"It is unfortunate that the behaviour of a few has made it necessary to impose these temporary arrangements, but this has been done with the well-being of our pupils at heart.”

Pupils and parents have been taking to social media to voice their anger over the policy.

“The rule is currently that during lessons, all pupil bathrooms are locked, bar three single disabled bathrooms,” one pupil explained.

“Glenlola admission numbers are approximately 1,000 pupils; this means we have less than one toilet per 300 pupils.

“While I understand there is no explicit minimum requirement for how many toilets a school should have per pupil, the Department of Education’s ‘Advice on standards for school premises’ gives an example that “for pupils over 11 one toilet per 20 pupils would be sufficient”.

“What we at Glenlola are experiencing is far beyond that guidance. The same Department advice letter states that all bathrooms should be ‘adequately ventilated and lit’. However in my school, there is a sign in one of the bathrooms saying in no uncertain terms “there is no ventilation here”.

“Furthermore, the latter part of that sign says “use this loo only to pee” which I find utterly ridiculous.”

Bangor councillor Connie Egan is a past pupil of the school and said there are concerns after the rule was introduced without an explanation.

“It is hard to imagine why these rules have been introduced without a comprehensive explanation from the school,” the Alliance councillor said.

“Girls and young women need to use bathrooms for many reasons and they should be freely and openly accessible to those who need them.

“I have signed and support the pupils’ petition, their voices need to be heard and respected in this policy. I hope the school will take this into consideration.”

She has requested a meeting with the school to raise concerns.

“Pupil health and wellbeing needs to be a top priority and I have requested an urgent meeting with the principal to discuss this matter on behalf of concerned parents and pupils at the school

”I have recently raised the matter with the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma. I will continue to engage with parents, pupils and the school community to push for a positive outcome.”

Pupils said the petition is aimed at persuading senior leadership at Glenlola Collegiate, and the Board of Governors, to reopen all pupil bathrooms “in order to prevent missing out on upwards of 20 minutes of class time in queuing to use the bathroom, and alleviate humiliation caused to students as young as 11”.

Last month, a bill was introduced to the NI Assembly aimed at addressing period poverty in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Education has also been contacted for comment.

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