New gender-neutral toilets at Czech school spark strong debate

The head of a secondary school says she wants to cater to transitioning children as best as possible, but others say the school is trying to cut costs.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 15.06.2024 14:05:00 (updated on 15.06.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

A secondary school in the country’s Pilsen region has recently installed non-binary toilets, prompting a mix of reactions from students and on social media. School director Markéta Lorenzová said the decision was made to show respect to – and accommodate – gender-transitioning students, whereas students say that the school installed the new toilets to save money.

A step towards acceptance

Lorenzová said: "These individuals have always been among us, but hid their sexual identity. Now, times are changing, and their parents are also changing their attitudes towards it [transgenderism]." The headmistress says that the decision to establish gender-diverse toilets came from the teachers rather than pupils or parents. 

Out of the roughly 600 students at Plasy Gymnasium and Secondary Vocational School, there are currently two who have openly disclosed their gender change, the school says. However, Lorenzová believes that there may be more who have not come forward.

“By creating non-binary toilets, we showed the children that we respect them. We have taken a friendly step towards transgender children, and those who need the toilets can now use them,” said Lorenzová.

Mayor of Radčić, the Pilsen region where the Plasy school lies, Rolando Arias told the media earlier this week that a child who feels a different sexual orientation requires maximum sensitivity and must be given maximum care in order to help them. Although he says the toilets help, he emphasizes the importance of psychiatrists for some children going through gender changes – something he says is hard, given the national shortage of pediatric mental health professionals.

Some students are opposed

Some students, however, see the school’s move as a convenient method of saving money. “Most of the classes at our school are mostly girl-dominated, so there are few toilets for boys. In order not to have to redo new toilets for the boys, and also to meet the hygienic conditions, the school came up with the idea of non-binary toilets, CNN Prima News quotes an anonymous student as saying. 

Despite some negative reactions on the internet, Lorenzová has not received any criticism from parents. She noted that students are utilizing the non-binary toilets.

Wider governmental debate

The Plasy school’s move is microcosmic of debates on gender-neutral toilets debated at the governmental level. In October 2023, the Ministry of Education presented a draft decree that would remove the obligation for public schools to have separate toilets for both boys and girls. This triggered intense reactions, with Shadow Minister of Education Jana Berkovcová calling non-binary toilets “unhygienic,” a “step backward” for Czechia and potentially causing psychological trauma.

On the other hand, member of parliament Renáta Zajíčková, who proposed the change in law, said the change would “bring Czechia closer to the European world.” With Pride Month halfway through, the Plasy debate illuminates nationwide debates on gender fluidity and LGBTQ+ acceptance in Czechia.

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