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Tables flipped as students protest over new toilet rules at academy school

Protests followed the implementation of new school rules that pupils can only go to the toilets during break times (ChiccoDodiFC/Alamy/PA)
Ellie Ng, PA

Tables were flipped over during a student protest over new toilet rules at a Cornwall academy, according to one of its pupils.

A protest broke out at Penrice Academy in St Austell, Cornwall, on Friday, as “hundreds of students” demonstrated against a new school rule which bans pupils from going to the toilet during lessons.

The new rules are also said to include a “red card scheme” in which female students need a special card to go to the toilet during class when on their periods.

One student at the academy told the PA news agency he was not involved but witnessed the demonstration by scores of pupils.

“A bunch of students were protesting about the new toilet rules that were put in place at my school,” he said.

“It was originally meant to be a peaceful protest but it escalated relatively fast.

“People started like flipping tables and climbing fences.”

He added that “something like” a bin was thrown through a window during the violence.

The teenager estimated around 300 students took part, adding that “quite a number of them” were suspended immediately and sent home.

He said he heard about one injury in which a student fell off a fence while trying to climb it.

The protest followed the implementation of new rules on Friday that mean students are no longer allowed to go to the toilet during lessons and can only go during break times.

“So we can only really go twice in a day,” he added.

He thought the new rules “make sense” and could be to do with the fact that toilets at Penrice Academy have been getting vandalised.

His father told PA the school had consulted with parents about the new rules, and confirmed there has been “a lot of abuse of toilets” by students while they have been out of lessons.

He added: “My son said when he came back from school earlier on, I think a lot of the students had seen a news report the day before where some girls had had their skirts measured, the length of skirts, by a male teacher, apparently.

“They saw this as a protest and decided to do something at the school, and obviously the new toilet rule came in today and it was based on that, I think.”

He said he was less concerned about the new rules than some of the parents of female students who may object to the “red card scheme”.

Penrice Academy sent an email to parents on Friday afternoon explaining that some students had protested “due to a social media post yesterday evening”.

The school told parents and carers: “Our students have the right to express their opinions in a calm and safe manner, however a small number of students' behaviour was unacceptable.

“A number of parents have already been contacted to collect their children.

“For the majority of our students, lessons and lunch time will continue as normal. If you have not been contacted, there is no need to collect your child.

“We hope to engage with them to find a solution that works for everyone as soon as possible. The safety and wellbeing of our students is always our priority.”

Penrice Academy has been contacted for comment.

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