Grant us relief from co-ed bathrooms

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

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.