Many residents/users of Alexandria’s facilities may be shocked to know that under Administrative Regulation 7-21, children 4 years or over are not allowed to accompany their opposite sex parent into a restroom/change-room (Section III, paragraph 26).
As an expecting mom of three sons 5 and under, I recently learned this the hard way.
Recently, my 5-year-old son had to use the toilet at Chinquapin so I took him in with me. Since my husband is deployed, I am often the sole guardian/caregiver. While he washed his hands, a woman approached me, naked and wet and told me he was not allowed to be there. I explained my husband was deployed and my son needed to potty. “Then use the family room,” she snapped. In fact, Chinquapin has no family room with a toilet.
The solution according to city officials? Send my son by himself into the men’s change rooms/restrooms and hope for the best. Even Alexandria City’s own Child Supervision Guidelines state: children “8 years and younger should … never be left unsupervised” and national and international standards consistently emphasize the importance of ensuring the safety of the child above all other considerations (including the privacy concerns of some adults).
In the meantime, the city manager promised to ask Parks and Recreation to conduct a “study” of best practices and make recommendations. Sigh. We all know what that means in terms of response time. Public institutions no longer have the luxury of time to engage in protracted bureaucratic exercises when they maintain policies/procedures that place children at risk.
Paragraph 26 must be changed or suspended immediately in locations where no family facilities exist to show the city is taking all the actions it can take to ensure the safety of its users, particularly its most vulnerable users, children.