The diversity of the modern day enrolment at schools has increased significantly over the last 20 years reflecting society’s fast growing recognition of people who identify as transgender and gender diverse. Transgender and gender diversity by their very nature can involve complex psychological and medical factors. This complexity increases considerably in the school environment. An inclusive, easy to understand and strongly pastoral Transgender and Gender Diverse Policy is critical for all Australian schools.
What are the Definitions of Transgender and Gender Diverse ?
Transgender refers to people who do not identify with the sex assigned at birth.
Gender Diverse refers to people who do not prescribe to binary roles or normative standards of expressing gender. Other identifications that may be used are gender fluid, gender questioning, or genderqueer.
So What Should be Included in a Transgender and Gender Diverse Policy?
There are many factors that should be included in a school’s Transgender and Gender Diverse Policy (T&GD Policy).The purpose of a T&GD Policy should be to combine the school’s legal and regulatory obligations with a caring and pastoral document focused on the welfare of the student. Below are just some of the factors that should be considered.
Parental collaboration is critical to the well-being of transgender and gender diverse students. A statement that reflects the value a school places on the parental input of students who are transgender or gender diverse as well as a commitment to working collaboratively with their parents builds a supportive and trusting framework.
Use of Pronouns
The correct use of pronouns by school staff and students fosters the inclusivity of transgender and gender diverse students. As a minimum, a T&GD Policy should include proactive steps to ensure that the rights of a student to use specific pronouns are respected by the School community.
Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination
A T&GD Policy should state that a School is committed to providing its students with access to education free from bullying, harassment and discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. A School should acknowledge:
- that its Anti-Bullying Policy prohibits bullying, harassment and discrimination against a student who is transgender or gender diverse and that such conduct is completely unacceptable; and
- that it will implement programs to educate its staff and students about gender diversity and the importance of an inclusive school community.
A transgender or gender diverse student’s name is a very important component of their gender identity. A TG&D Policy should include a:
- statement that a school is fully committed to guiding and supporting transgender or gender diverse students in circumstances where they wish to change their name on the school roll (as opposed to a formal name change on a birth certificate);
- process that ensures that all students, staff and volunteers are aware of a transgender or gender diverse student’s real name (not their birth name) and the importance of its use; and
- school’s position on changing names in circumstances where the student and the parents disagree.
School uniforms are a very public manner in which a transgender or gender diverse student can express their gender identity. A TG&D Policy should clearly state that a school will allow a transgender or gender diverse student to wear a uniform that:
- is consistent with their gender identity; or
- can be worn by any student regardless of their sex or gender identity.
Toilets and Change Room Facilities
The use of toilets and change room facilities for transgender and gender diverse students is a very sensitive issue. A TG&D Policy ought to:
- allow for a risk assessment to be undertaken to determine if there are any risks associated with the student using toilets and change rooms of their identified gender;
- ensure that a gender diverse student has access to, and is safely able to use, a toilet and changeroom which matches their identified gender or a unisex toilet and changeroom; and
- provide counsel and support for students who may feel uncomfortable sharing a single sex toilet and changeroom with a transgender or gender diverse student.
Schools should ensure that they maintain detailed records when supporting a student who is transgender or gender diverse . This would include information such as:
- information provided by health care professionals or other professionals involved in providing support to the student; and
- staff training and orientation.
Single Sex and Faith Based Schools
The Anti Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) have jurisdiction in Queensland. Both pieces of legislation contain provisions that are specific to single sex schools and faith based schools so far as they relate to the gender identity of current students and prospective students. A TG&D Policy for single sex and faith based schools ought to be drafted to ensure compliance with the provisions of these Acts.
Take Home Message
- Factors relevant to transgender and gender diverse students are frequently complex;
- All Australian schools should have a Transgender and Gender Diverse Policy; and
- A Transgender and Gender Diverse Policy should be written to comply with a school’s statutory and regulatory obligations whilst at the same time being practical, supportive and strongly pastoral.
For more information contact our Education Special Counsel, Ben Foley.