Here's Something: Grant us relief from co-ed bathrooms

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Last week I came across a stunning example of modern liberal thought run amok. It occurred during a visit to Casco Bay High School in Portland, and it left me shaking my head in disbelief.

During my visit, I had to use the boy’s room, but had trouble figuring out where it was. I found two bathrooms side by side on the second floor, but wasn’t sure which one was the boy’s room and which was the girl’s, since neither had a sign. Fortunately, I saw a male student drying his hands on paper towels so I headed that way. However, as I confirmed with a staff member afterward – but which I suspected was the case when I saw a feminine hygiene wastebasket in my stall – I was actually using one of two co-ed bathrooms.

The school’s first floor still features gender-specific bathrooms, but the second floor’s necessary rooms are strictly co-ed.

I’m so glad – as a 40-plus-year-old guy – that a girl didn’t walk in when I was in there.

The only other time I have used a public co-ed bathroom was at a fraternity house at Dartmouth University in Hanover, N.H. I used it while passing through for the night on my Appalachian Trail journey. I thought it was kind of crazy when a girl walked in as I was drying off from a much-needed shower, but I was on their turf, the stay was free and I knew it would make for a good story I could tell my grandchildren.

But now I can say I’ve used two co-ed bathrooms in my lifetime – one at the Dartmouth fraternity that inspired the movie “Animal House” and another at the taxpayer-funded Casco Bay High School, where it also seems anything goes.

The bathroom I used there was gender-specific not long ago, but was made co-ed due to a Portland Public Schools policy change spurred by former President Obama’s embrace of transgender youth, who thanks to a 2016 federal statute, can use the bathroom of their choice.

However admirable it sounds to give transgender students some freedom in choosing where they relieve themselves, it conflicts with reality, especially when an older man visiting the school potentially finds himself sharing a bathroom with a teenage girl. That’s just unacceptable and I hope something is done about it before anything bad happens.

I can’t believe parents are putting up with the change. Do they know about it? While it’s hard to believe the school’s administration thinks men like me and teen girls should share the same bathroom, I also can’t believe the administration, which must be significantly naive, thinks girls and boys should share the same bathrooms. How insane is that? Hookups were never so easy.

And what about shy students, who have trouble enough using a same-sex bathroom with others? I know girls who never used the bathroom in high school because of the fear of being heard doing unfeminine things. Now they must do those things with boys nearby, separated by a thin sheet of metal between stalls? That just isn’t right.

Beyond embarrassment, in an age of sexual abuse and exploitation of minors, Casco Bay High School is needlessly opening itself up to lawsuits. I can’t believe school officials, including the School Board, would put girls in danger like that. In the wake of shootings, schools have become fortresses in an effort to protect kids. But these same officials somehow let girls alone in a bathroom with older boys and even men? That sounds like a Trojan horse just waiting to happen.

While some may enjoy the co-ed experience and feel they’re on the cutting edge of a brave new world of genderless living, I’m sure plenty of the students think co-ed bathrooms are a bad idea. But do they dare to speak up? Will their fellow students think them uncool? Will Kool-Aid drinking administrators tar a complainant as insensitive to transgender individuals? If they petition, would administrators or teachers dock them a grade or two? The administrators have all the power; the kids are at their mercy.

While I know these co-ed bathrooms are a desperate move by the administration to assuage the transgender population, they need to realize their “fix” is no fix at all and that it’s actually generating problems that will bite them in the end. They need to restore gender-exclusive bathrooms and have transgender students use the same bathrooms staff members use. Either that or do away with gang bathrooms altogether and install single-occupant, genderless bathrooms in their place. That would make sense.

What’s in place now is foolish and dangerous.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.

  • Little crow

    It’s too bad that the kids, who are powerless, always have to bear the brunt of these decisions made by adults with an agenda.

    • Jennifer Kastelic

      at this school the kids MAKE the decisions!!!!! THE KIDS WANTED THIS.

  • Chew H Bird

    I agree that on the off chance an older male, (probably someone’s Dad), uses a gender neutral restroom and a teenage female enters because she is allowed to also use the same facility, that the situation may be awkward at best and potentially far worse should a female ever accuse, rightly or wrongly, the older male of anything.

    I see nothing wrong with labeling restrooms male and female and allowing students go go wherever they are most comfortable.

    Sure there us potential for abuse but I also remember my high school days and as I recall we found ways to be politically incorrect in virtually every situation we encountered. Teenagers will always find ways to act out, embarrass themselves and others, and push the boundaries of respect and decency regardless of what the rules of the day dictate.

    However I do find it difficult to understand how our brightest people, (our educators), could overlook common sense issues in a public building when it comes to situations involving parents, visitors, or special events regarding how bathrooms are titled.

    • Jennifer Kastelic

      This was a student led situation.

  • poppypapa

    “Twas a brave man who ate the first oyster.”

    It may be an even braver man who would write and submit this column.

    Our “educators” should not be presumed to be any brighter than any other class of professionals. and they may well be more subject to political fads and correctness than most other professions.

    Their stature as “public servants” of almost divine status with job security to match protects them against any of various forms of virtue signaling, and attempts to claim that “the greater good” means bowing to the whims and grievances of the very smallest minority of society and compelling the vast majority to suck it up and deal with it.

    The larger message here is what this tells you about the “values” and cultural realities they “teach” our children.

    • Jennifer Kastelic

      Dude. Do research. The kids set this up, not the grownups. I have 2 students at this school currently and my 3rd will be going next year. I have an “inside scoop”!!!! Us old folks need to get woke!!!!! Wake up!

      • poppypapa

        Kids given their cultural groundings at the school under the leadership of those in charge.

        But I can see where your comment negates the concerns raised by the author. Oh yeah.

    • Lisa Penalver

      Nice dog whistle to your homies there: see that? “cultural elites”: you are doing Pence proud.

      • poppypapa

        Some reading glasses might help.

  • EdBeem

    John, did you ask whether coed facilities were a problem for any o the students?

    • Charlene

      Of course he didn’t, that would require him to do something other than navel-gazing.

  • mowCooke

    John, where I appreciate your right to make comments on this topic, i find flaw in your argument. As you pointed out, there are other options for students/visitors in the building that would prefer not to have a gender neutral restroom experience. It also seems, upon further investigation, that this was thoroughly communicated to parents and was a student driven initiative; which is available through a quick Google search on the high school with the key terms of “gender neutral” bathrooms. What does seem to be apparent is the opportunity for choice, students have access to gender neutral bathrooms or gender defined restrooms. i see this as a stark message of inclusion and applaud the school and student lead movement. Bathroom segregation has always fallen on the wrong side of history.

  • Jennifer Kastelic

    I have 2 children at CBHS and a third going next year. I thank the good Lord for this school and its approach every day. JUST SO YOU KNOW, this all-gendered bathroom situation was done by the students for the students. And, yes, sometimes it is uncomfortable. But public bathrooms, especially school ones, are never fun. And, get your freaking head out of gutter-porn, you think kids are “hooking-up”? Thats gross. To think that is gross. Gross. Grow up, dude. And research before you write. Please!

    • Bobo

      Kids are actually hooking up in those bathrooms. I can confirm this

      • Lisa Penalver

        Sure you can, Bobo…NOT. This is a small school where the kids are given, and do honor to, a high level of respect and responsibility,. anyone “hooking up” would be found out almost immediately. Your active imagination has gotten the best of you.

  • Rijah

    My son goes to CBHS and is transgender. He worked very hard to get gender neutral bathrooms. I want to point out first that you said there are 2 gender specific bathrooms downstairs, so kids do have a choice. Your article is transphobic and should not be published anywhere. If you are a 40 year old man who can’t be trusted around teenage girls you should seek help for that. When I am a visitor at a school I seek out the teachers bathroom because that’s where the adults go. However I have used student bathrooms as well and no matter what my gender is or anyone else’s I know that neither one of us is going to assault the other. Please consider not being a publication that allows hate speech in the guise of a PSA.

    • Chew H Bird

      I suspect the issue is the often public condemnation if a student were to make any sort of complaint concerning an older person in a bathroom situation. I was a teenager and I know that my classmates and myself often had very poor judgement about many things. In today’s media fueled quest for clicks all it takes is one poor choice (like a poor attempt at humor or a bad joke), and the “average 40 something male” is generally crucified through social networking and the media.

      • Just Sayin’

        Can you give me any good examples of this ever happening and leading to a big legal problem for an innocent man? I can’t recall even once hearing about an adult male who was wrongfully implicated in a sex crime simply for being in a student bathroom. Especially in recent years since school security has become much stronger.

        Let’s not start stripping away the ability and right for transgender students, who are there everyday, to comfortably use the bathroom in order to protect the very rarely visiting adult male from a problem that, generally speaking, doesn’t happen. There are much smarter ways to protect schools, and we see those ways in use in most schools already.

  • Scott Harriman

    “Either that or do away with gang bathrooms altogether and install single-occupant, genderless bathrooms in their place. That would make sense.”

    But not three months ago you wrote a column against single-occupant, genderless bathrooms…

    • Scott Harriman

      And, what’s up with your weird bathroom obsession, anyway?

      You’ve got the opportunity to write about anything from a conservative perspective — could you choose something more interesting and important?

  • Scott Harriman

    “I’m so glad – as a 40-plus-year-old guy – that a girl didn’t walk in when I was in there.”

    Could you explain? I’m only in my thirties, but I’m not scared of teenagers.

    On the other hand, were you afraid of what you would do around them (a la Mike Pence)? If so, that’s not the students’ fault and you really should seek help.

  • Boys

    My man you just triggered everyone at Casco. Prepare yourself

  • 😎

    Casco student here. I don’t 100% agree with you but the students at Casco have been overreacting to this. Don’t let anyone shame you for having an opinion

  • Quentin Smith

    One time I took a massive dump in those bathrooms. It was so big that it just wouldn’t go down no matter how many times I flushed. The toilet eventually started to overflow and the floor was covered in my fecal matter.

  • Lisa Penalver

    Forecaster: WHY are you PAYING this ignorant and potentially dangerous man (who feels he himself is a threat in a unisex bathroom), to spread falsehoods and half-baked assumptions on the pages of your paper? Surely you can find someone less willing to attack vulnerable teens to represent the Conservative viewpoint in your publication.

  • MaineCitizen

    I’m thinking that if you were uncomfortable, you had a choice – unlike the many children who attend our public schools. It’s heinous that you assumed that boys were “safe” in a gendered bathroom.

  • Christopher White

    I grew up in a three generation household with one bathroom. Old men, young girls and everyone else, regardless of gender identity, used the same toilet. Many of us have similar experiences using a bathroom not limited to a single sex. Many public facilities are not gender specific; a single small room with a toilet & sink serving all customers is the norm in most small businesses.

    One would think, reading this bizarre, sex obsessed, trans & homophobic nonsense that the existence of non-gender specific bathrooms in a high school will lead, inevitably, to 40 year old men visiting the school being surprised by Lolita-like female students whose nubile sexuality will lead, inevitably, to said 40 year old men either being unable to hide their immediate arousal … or lead the minx to level false charges of assault against them. Or, maybe, the fear is those 40 year old men who are conservatives, with the sensitivity of delicate flowers, may find themselves in a small room with someone whose sexual identity fails to match their genitalia. Horrors! Oh, and then there is the fear such a bathroom will provide hormonally intoxicated teens the ability to ‘hook up’ for casual sex on the sink between classes. Eeek!

    Seriously, can’t the Forecaster find a ‘conservative’ writer who [a] can actually write and [b] who offers cogent and rational opinions about topics of real interest to the community? While Mr Ballentine at least avoids the nearly meaningless ‘word-salad’ approach that plagued the last regular ‘conservative’ columnist, these exercises in twisted logic are, at best, tiresome.

  • Lisa Penalver

    Balantine appears to have a “thing” for unisex bathrooms- perhaps part of a series of reports: he wrote on the topic back in Nov of 2017, another mud-slinger.

    The disturbing question of WHY he was lurking in the Casco Bay High bathroom arises- he was NOT a guest of the high school–I asked the principal.

    Attacks on gender-neutral bathrooms is a dog-whistle theme for the radical right, a red herring and a red flag: just like abortion and “white pride”. it’s really about white male supremacy feeling threatened.

    I would request that the Forecaster find a conservative writer who is capable of more thoughtful and mature writing. There ARE conservatives capable to this, THIS one, however, is not.

  • Robert

    seems like the whole school comment on this try to make it seem normal this is far from normal this is disgusting you people should be ashamed of yourself letting boys going girls girls go in the boys bathroom nasty

  • farmertom2

    Co-ed bathrooms fall to the very bottom of non-problem lists

  • Linda Gouldrup

    Mr. Balentine, I find it hard to believe the naivete of your commenters. Surely no one believes anything bad ever happens in our schools?! A student led policy? Who’s in charge of the institution?