News

Children in YMCA adult locker rooms questioned

Palo Alto Family YMCA policy is upsetting some members

The YMCA of Silicon Valley has been allowing children 7 years old and younger to join their opposite-sex parents in the locker rooms. But some users of the Palo Alto Family YMCA on Ross Road say the policy opens the door for inappropriate exposure and is disturbing to adult members.

YMCA officials decided this week to lower the age of opposite-gender use of locker rooms to kids age 6 and younger and to better delineate the spaces between adult and family changing areas, which are contiguous.

Some members said the problem is really about dedicating a separate space for family use where kids won't have to risk viewing naked men and women.

YMCA of Silicon Valley has nine locations. Only two of the newer facilities, in East Palo Alto and Mountain View at the El Camino YMCA, have dedicated family changing-room space, according to officials and members.

Elizabeth Jordan, chief operating officer of YMCA of Silicon Valley, said the opposite-sex policy accommodates parents who don't want to leave their kids alone in the same-sex locker room.

"We can't allow a 4-year-old to wander into a locker room unattended," she said. Parents also don't want to change their children on the pool deck or transport them home in wet bathing suits, she added.

At the Palo Alto YMCA, the roughly horseshoe-shaped women's and men's locker rooms have family spaces, but the small changing areas are at the back of the locker rooms and are not partitioned, officials concede. Jordan said it isn't possible to add partitions or curtains because parents need a direct line of sight of their children for safety reasons.

But retired Palo Alto police officer and YMCA member Joe Sparaco said the presence of children of the opposite sex in the locker rooms has made for some disturbing and uncomfortable encounters.

The issue came to his attention a year ago, when a 10-year-old girl came through the locker room and realized there were men in the shower.

"She was shocked. ... She had a towel and was trying to cover up, and she was crying for her dad," Sparaco recalled. "I was beside myself, and I asked to speak to the manager. This was a humiliating moment for her and for other people in the locker room."

The Y did not appear to have signs up then to let people know there was an age limit, but shortly thereafter, signage was added, he recalled. Still, some people choose to ignore it.

About five weeks ago, Sparaco emerged from the shower with a towel around his waist to find a father on a bench braiding his two daughters' hair in the adult men's section. A couple of men stood around befuddled, not knowing whether to dress or undress in front of the girls, he said.

Sparaco asked the man to take the girls out into the hallway.

"You can just shove it," the father reportedly told Sparaco, insisting that the area was the family dressing space.

Sparaco isn't alone in his concern.

"Some people are upset about it," said a man who is a member of the Palo Alto Family Y. "Some of the kids are not that small. When I go to the bathroom, at times I feel uncomfortable about that. I don't walk around without any clothes on, but some people do."

Two women said the presence of boys in the women's locker room is problematic. Parents don't always control their kids, and they run into the adult areas rather than staying in the family-changing section, they said.

Jordan said there are intercoms in the locker rooms, and members are encouraged to use them if someone is not complying with policy. When someone violates the rules, staff is trained to ask the person to move to the family side of the locker room, added Lee Pfab, executive director for the Palo Alto Family Y.

Sparaco said the opposite-sex problem is compounded by girls having to pass the men's showers to get to the pool. There is only one doorway.

Pfab acknowledged that there is a chance a child may see an adult unclothed due to the single entrance.

Sparaco would like to see a starkly different policy: no opposite-sex children in the adult locker rooms. There are already two small, private dressing rooms outside of the locker room that parents and children can use, he said.

Other YMCAs have different policies. The Marin YMCA in San Rafael has four separate locker rooms: for women, girls, boys and men, said Ron Reher of member services. The sexes are strictly separated. Parents can go into the children's locker rooms, but they must be accompanied by a child.

The Sonoma County YMCA allows children of the opposite sex under 6 years old in the men's and women's locker rooms into a curtained area reserved for families, but there is a separate, private entrance. There is also a unisex dressing area with a hallway that leads to the pool so that children don't need to pass through the opposite-sex locker room.

Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by Next Step
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 17, 2014 at 8:49 am

We now have a law in California that allows children to enter a restroom or locker room of whichever gender they identify.

Very soon we will just have to have unisex facilities for everybody.


2 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2014 at 12:46 pm

This is for PARENTS who take their kids younger than 7 to the Y -- so they can help them get dressed for activities and so that they can protect them from predators. Fathers with little daughters and sons are worried about their kids and want to keep an eye on them.


8 people like this
Posted by Y I left
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2014 at 6:03 pm

One of the many reasons I left the Y were the under-supervised 5-7 year-old boys in the women's locker room. Some of them would stare, pull up women's dresses and look underneath, crawl under locked stalls, etc. It was very discomfiting.

Other reasons were the fact that they removed equipment while simultaneously enrolling more new members, causing long waits for remaining equipment. Overcrowded locker rooms, insufficient showers, lack of sufficient parking, and ever-increasing rates were the other reasons.

24-Hr Fitness does not allow ANY children in locker rooms. Parents are expected to shower before picking up their kids from their childcare room. That room has its own restroom and drinking water facilities.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Please don't resurrect the Page Mill Y issue -- it's OVER. And please don't start in on the other Ys either. Enough is enough.


3 people like this
Posted by Memories
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 17, 2014 at 8:38 pm

This should be stopped if both children and adults are discomfited.


3 people like this
Posted by YMCA member
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2014 at 11:58 pm

I feel sorry for the little girls who have to around naked men n the men's locker room. Just as I feel sorry for the naked women in the women's locker room who have to be around curious boys.

Short term solution: Do not walk around naked in the locker room. Some people do it unnecessarily. Put on your underwear in the shower, and walk around in underwear or in a towel (around the waist for men and around the torso for women).

Long term solution: Curtain off the family changing area from the other changing area and require modesty in the common area leading to the pool entrance and the showers.


7 people like this
Posted by no privacy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 18, 2014 at 6:14 am

I too feel uncomfortable in the women's dressing room with so many youngish boys staring at me and other women. The Y needs to expand the number of family dressing rooms (maybe a 5 minute limit) for families that need privacy to get their children dressed. It is the parent's responsibility to supervise their children. Parents who are aware of this "staring" could take their children into the closed bathroom stalls and dress/undress their child in privacy, until a better solution is worked out. The JCC has a private dressing room for families with about 4 shower rooms that LOCK. They don't have any of these problems. Also, there should be a limit to the number of families/members open to join the Family Y. Adding more people to the problem, only makes it worse.


5 people like this
Posted by Constantly Turning Around
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 18, 2014 at 7:03 am

Interesting that everyone feels for the girls and women, but no voiced concern for the men at all. How do yo think we feel, trying to get dressed while some curious 6 y.o girl keeps trying to sneak around to get a peek.
Please expand your concerns to all involved. It is certainly NOT a female specific concern in the locker rooms.


1 person likes this
Posted by Member
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2014 at 7:45 am

If children are used to seeing the naked adult body at home then they are not as likely to stare. Of course they will stare if this is the only place they see nakedness. In this country, there is a very different cultural attitude to nakedness than in Europe. Go to a European beach and you will see a lot more naked flesh. Strange that in America everyone covers up on the beach but walks around naked in locker rooms and even has restroom stalls with short doors and wide seams to prevent privacy.

Please do not start using the very limited number of stalls for changing or dressing, there are few enough toilet facilities at present and using them for changing would cause those waiting to use them more inconvenience. BTW, I rarely change in the locker room but often need to use the restroom and find it uncomfortable seeing so many naked bodies. The locker rooms are poorly designed imo and we should be able to get to the toilets without needing to go through changing areas.


Like this comment
Posted by YMCA Member
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 18, 2014 at 8:58 am

There are two private family dressing/showering rooms clearly marked for members with young children to use. Nobody expects a 4 or 5 year old child to enter either men's or women's dressing rooms unattended. Those rooms are rarely used and it seems parents will simply ignore what is reasonable for their own convenience and at the expense of others! Men, women and children alike... It is also apparent when you go into the men's locker and showering area that some parents also disregard the signs that limit children of opposite gender by age and kids as old as 9 years old have been identified as being in those areas. Even if a child did not dress or shower, but simply has to use the men's room to enter the pool, they have to walk right through the shower area and are practically assured of seeing naked men as they walk through. There is only one door to enter the pool area from that room. My opinion is there is a solution as simple as enforcing the common sense rules, have the Y open the door to the pool from the lobby area, and enforce their own rules of having parents with youngster use the two "Family Dressing Rooms" already provided.l


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 18, 2014 at 9:04 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


3 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2014 at 9:16 am

BTW: YMCA is an organization for all, not just Christians. It's name is an anachronism.

It seems the problem here is unsupervised very young children. Parents are the issue.

My daughter took swimming lessons at the Y as a young child -- all of the kids, boys and girls, got dressed with their parents' help and supervision. No problem, if there is supervision. (BTW, they didn't look at adult genitals...geez folks)

Kids run wild in lots of local spots.....Macy's, Starbuck's (and how), etc. etc. and the parents ignore them and do nothing!!!


2 people like this
Posted by Y I left
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2014 at 9:50 am

True, the parents are partly to blame for this particular problem-- little boys are under-or un-supervised. However, most women, myself included, did and do not run around naked in the locker room, and cover up with a large towel or two.


1 person likes this
Posted by Why 7
a resident of Nixon School
on Oct 18, 2014 at 10:12 am

What was the reason to enforce a 7-year-old and under limit then?

Why was it OK then?

Who was at fault, the kid or Y?

"...when a 10-year-old girl came through the locker room and realized there were men in the shower.

"She was shocked. ... She had a towel and was trying to cover up, and she was crying for her dad," Sparaco recalled. "I was beside myself, and I asked to speak to the manager. This was a humiliating moment for her and for other people in the locker room.""


2 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2014 at 10:33 am

BTW, the "C" is YMCA is not an anachronism, nor should it be.

The YMCA is (in theory) run according to Christian principles, and according to these principles it is open to people of all faiths and no faith. By and large, Christian non-profits worldwide do not discriminate.

There are many Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims who attend the Palo Alto YMCA, and they are all welcome and treated the same as Christians. But this is still a Christian non-profit by charter.

Web Link

From the link above:

For us at the YMCA, the use of the word ‘Christian’ is very intentional and straightforward. It means that we do our best every day to model our operations, our programs, and our relationships on the Christ of scripture, through the core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility.

It means that---like Christ---we are inclusive, open to every person seeking a better life. It means that---like Christ---we are focused on touching lives with positive influences, to help each person whom we reach become all that God intends him or her to be. It means that we work hard to provide a positive environment and a comprehensive program that recognizes and treats each person as a special child of God.

Indeed, our mission says it best: we put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all. And we take the “for all” seriously, welcoming persons from all faiths, backgrounds, and perspectives.


2 people like this
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2014 at 11:17 am

As someone who left, along with my entire family the YMCA for good immediately after the disastrous and unjustified decision to close down the Page Mill Y, I am still stunned by what a first class operation my new gym is in comparison to the Y. The Ross Y is truly third rate in comparison, be it the exercise equipment, lockers, showers, cleanliness and staff attentiveness and courtesy. I wish I had left sooner. Under no circumstances would my new gym allow young children to wonder into an opposite gender lockers and showers.


3 people like this
Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2014 at 11:27 am

Member - who cares what they do in Europe? That's not relevant.


Like this comment
Posted by viillage fool
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2014 at 11:29 am

@boscoli - and your new gym is?


Like this comment
Posted by viillage fool
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2014 at 12:24 pm

@boscoli - you wrote above:

"As someone who left, along with my entire family the YMCA for good immediately after the disastrous and unjustified decision to close down the Page Mill Y,..."

I read your decision to leave with your entire family the as a clear statement reflecting your opinion about the decision to close down the Page Mill YMCA.
I hope I read your decision correctly.

[Portion removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Boscoli-

What is the name of your new gym? Do they have a pool? How do their membership fees compare with the Y?


Like this comment
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm

@curious, JCC, they do have a pool. More expensive than Y.
@village: once I realized that the Y board had made the closure decision a long time before informing the members and AFTER the fund drive, and bearing in mind how their reasoning daily untilx they settled, sort of, on one story , my entire family left, and will never have anything to do with this organization again.


3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 18, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Parents have kids in school... what happens if you're the boy in the women's locker room with your mom, asked to change there, and you're in the same room with one of the girls in your class. Or vice versa. My son is shy about taking off his shirt in front of anyone. And how do you prevent that embarrassing situation for them?

To hell with the convenience of the parents, I'd take my kids home in wet bathings suits. Whats the problem with that?

I do also think its very old school for people to be getting 100% naked in public locker rooms. This generation doesn't do that for the most part. Why can't there be some rules about that? Bathing suits required in the showers, changing ok - but no walking around nude. etc. Come on! Is it really that necessary? Times are different now, some people should be required to get with the times. Not a single one of my kids as they went through middle school age changed in the open at school. I encouraged them to go ahead and change quickly out in the open for efficiency sake, but they just don't feel comfortable with that. I respect that. Even my kids in high school and one who is in collegiate sports - THEY don't shower in the locker rooms. They bring their sweaty selves home for their showers. Fine with me.


1 person likes this
Posted by Big Mac
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 18, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Agree with the need for some people to cover up a bit more.

But, showering in your underwear?? How gross is that?

Some guys do seem to flaunt their nudity. I've heard the same my wife when she's visited the ladies lockerrom, (and in my imagination, of course. ) But for the guys side, it's pretty rough.

Most younger guys quickly change, walk with a towel around their waist, and shower with the curtain closed.

Old guys - and you know who you are - take off all their clothes, and then tour the locker room, talk to friends, shower with the curtain open, shave/brush teeth, and blow dry their nether regions! Ay yi yi my eyes!!
I think that was ok at Page Mill - virtually no kids running around. But Ross road is the FAMILY ymca.
There's minimal chance to ogle even with the youngsters around if you just constrain your needs to air everything out...


1 person likes this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2014 at 9:18 pm

I found it worthwhile to read the entire article, not just leap in on commenting based on the topic. Apparently some adults are disrespectful of others and bringing kids a tad too old for going into the other gender restroom/changing area. It's important to know the situation and the specific behaviors. It should be policy to make the maximum number of people comfortable in the facility, not cater to dads who bring slightly-too-old daughters into the men's area...


3 people like this
Posted by YMCA Parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 19, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Seriously?! As a mother, I can't imagine being told to send my five year old son into the men's locker room by himself. When we're swimming and he needs to go to the bathroom, and the family changing room is occupied, what am I supposed to do? I'm always respectful when he is in the women's locker room with me, and the bathrooms and showers have partitions. We use the family changing area and it is no problem. Cover up if it's a big deal. Parents need to be responsible for their kids - don't punish all parents for the negligence of a few. If you've got a problem with a parent, call the staff.


Like this comment
Posted by Outsider
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2014 at 10:59 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Dana
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2014 at 9:08 am

The YMCA should make a change to accommodate the different needs.


2 people like this
Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2014 at 9:38 am

Mark Dinan is a registered user.

One of the great things about the East Palo Alto YMCA is that there are multiple family rooms with changing areas for parents & kids that include a shower and toilet. The East Palo Alto YMCA is a first class facility, and my 4 year old son and I love going to the Pool there. The facility is new, and has a pool, climbing wall, gymnasium, lots of treadmills/bicycles/weight machines, etc. The only time it is really crowded is around 5-7 pm, and the rest of the time it is pretty empty. People in Palo Alto seem to have an aversion to crossing over to EPA, but given that it is about a 10 minute drive from most o Palo Alto, worth checking out.


Like this comment
Posted by Former Y Member
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 21, 2014 at 10:26 pm

Used to go to Page Mill Y. Can certainly say the mens locker room is full of men who for whatever reason feel the need to walk around completely naked, shave naked, read newspapers naked, blow dry hair naked...and so on. If I had a daughter I would not want her in that locker room. Further, I would never send m 5 an 7 year old boys in that locker room by themselves....with people like that about.

There is one private family changing area in the pool area. It had poor ventilation and bugs flying around inside of it all the time. Not a great option for families.

We chose to pay a little more for a modern facility that welcomes families.


Like this comment
Posted by G Whiz
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 22, 2014 at 9:56 pm

The issues mentioned occur very rarely and have affected a very small number of members. As a longtime PAFY member and locker room user, I sure hope the Y doesn't use these occasions to inconvenience every other member who uses the locker rooms.

The issues all seem to stem from parents' :

1) When you take your child into a locker room, you need to tell them what to expect. People will look "different" and, just like any other place where people look "different", be respectful and polite. Great opportunity for some valuable lessons here.

2) Do not leave your child unsupervised in an area where they might be uncomfortable, or make other uncomfortable. Be available to help them understand the situation. Another great opportunity for some valuable lessons here.

3) If you have unusual requirements (like, make sure your children never ever see anyone naked), you may need to make some tradeoffs, not force everyone to see things the way you do.


1 person likes this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Parents can, have, and will decide --- according to their personal beliefs and choice --- how to deal with the Y locker room policy.....JUST AS THEY ALWAYS HAVE.

I believe that this article, and many of the letters, have been planted to create an ugly controversy where none exists.

It makes many folks like me wonder why some former members of the Page Mill YMCA can't let their bitterness go.

But this effort to continue to defame the YMCA is shameful -- and seems like a local version of other "witch trials" in our history.


3 people like this
Posted by member
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 24, 2014 at 1:31 am

I know some of you want to believe the complaints and comments found in this article are not true or being over exaggerated, or perhaps being made to discredit the YMCA despite all the good work they do. It's hard to believe that the YMCA is failing to protect little children and that some parents feel it is just fine for their 5, 6, or 7 year old children to be exposed to nudity in their presence when using the Palo Alto YMCA swimming pool.

I find it hard to believe that any mother would allow her young son or daughter be exposed in the way they are when there is a solution already in place that could prevent it from happening. Reading a few of the comments, I wonder if they are being made out of ignorance of the situation... or if they realize there is a simple solutions as easy as unlocking a door to the pool area right off the lobby.

TAKE A TOUR... Why don't you pay a visit to the facility and get a tour of the dressing/showering rooms so you will know what you're suggesting is OK. Ask to see the two private dressing rooms right at the lobby door and then ask yourself why, other than for the adults "convenience" isn't the policy changed to getting the adult area's back to being off limits to people of the opposite gender.

Most women are not comfortable having young boys staring at them when taking showers or getting out of a bathing suit and into street clothes. I certainly AM NOT and for that reason I have stopped using the pool all together.

Come on people, ask the Y to wake up and get the facility back to a family friendly and decent place for us all to workout and enjoy.


Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Feb 17, 2015 at 4:03 pm

[Post removed.]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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