- Teenager arrested and questioned over four alleged attacks at a school in Essex
- Harry Potter author, 57, claims such assaults were ‘foreseeable and preventable’
JK Rowling has warned that gender neutral toilets are sacrificing girls’ ‘safety, privacy and dignity’ after a schoolboy was arrested over claims of serious sexual assaults against female pupils in same-sex lavatories.
The Harry Potter author spoke out after the teenager, who is under the age of 16, was detained and questioned over four alleged attacks at a school in Essex.
The secondary school, which cannot be named for legal reasons, had allegedly not carried out an impact assessment on the provision of mixed-sex lavatories.
It is understood that three of the attacks were claimed to have happened in unisex bathrooms. The boy has since been bailed while police continue their investigation.
Now, 57-year-old author and women’s rights campaigner Rowling has claimed such attacks were ‘entirely foreseeable and preventable’.
She tweeted: ‘Girls’ safety, privacy and dignity are being sacrificed to an incoherent ideology pushed by lobby groups, which gives predatory males easy access to victims.’
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Rowling also cited a Sunday Times investigation in 2018 that found nearly 90 per cent of reported sexual assaults, harassment and voyeurism in sports centre and swimming pool changing rooms occur in gender-neutral facilities.
And Conservative MP Miriam Cates, who is a former teacher, told The Daily Telegraph: ‘Gender-neutral facilities are a threat to the safety of women and girls because they create a private space hidden from the public view where assaults cannot be witnessed.
‘Whilst, of course, the vast majority of males do not mean females any harm, the few who do will inevitably seek to take advantage of the opportunity that gender-neutral facilities present to commit offences.
‘I very much hope that the new Department for Education guidance will make clear that gender-neutral facilities are a safeguarding risk and should not be allowed in schools.’
It comes as the long-awaited trans guidance is expected to be published by the department next week.
The advice is expected to force schools to tell parents if students are questioning their gender. It is also likely to see trans pupils stopped from competing in sports they could have a physical advantage in.
Other anticipated provisions include a ban on children who change their gender from using toilets and changing rooms of the opposite sex.
Schools are required to provide separate lavatories for children aged eight and over, but many are failing to do so.
Meanwhile, a recent Policy Exchange report found around one in five schools did not have different changing rooms for boys and girls.
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An Essex Police spokesman said: ‘We are currently investigating reports of serious sexual assaults, which are believed to have occurred at a school in North Essex.
‘A boy under the age of 16 has been arrested and since been bailed with conditions. We are working closely with the school and local authorities whilst enquiries for this investigation continue.’
An Essex County Council spokesman said: ‘We are working closely with Essex Police and relevant authorities regarding a safeguarding matter at a school in Essex.
‘We are supporting the leadership at the school and will provide additional support to the school community if required.
‘The school have communicated with parents and carers and have offered support. As this is an ongoing police investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time.’
Rowling has become a prominent women’s rights campaigner in recent years – as well as a target of trans activists over her views.
Earlier this month Oxfam was forced to apologise for an LGBT video that appeared to demonise Rowling as an anti-trans villain.
The charity admitted it ‘made a mistake’ by using the image of an older woman labelled with the derogatory term ‘Terf’ to illustrate transphobic hate groups.
‘Terf’ is a term used by trans activists to refer to ‘trans exclusionary radical feminists’ who oppose gender ideology.
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Separately, Oxfam was accused of hounding out a volunteer over her support of Rowling.
The former worker told Unherd she had been found guilty of misconduct for asking on a company intranet forum why the writer was being accused of transphobia.
She launched an employment tribunal case which was settled out of court last year with Oxfam apologising for making mistakes in the case and the disciplinary process.
In June 2020, Rowling was accused of being ‘transphobic’ after insisting only women experience menstruation.
She had challenged an article entitled: ‘Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate.’
Taking issue with the phrasing, she copied a link to the article and posted above it on Twitter: ‘People who menstruate. I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?’