South Australian transgender students are able to use their preferred names, access the toilets that match their gender identity and wear the uniform of their choice under a new policy for the state’s schools.
Ann-Marie Hayes from the SA Education Department said the new procedure provides clear advice to staff and volunteers in state schools and early childhood services on how they’re required to support transgender students.
“We had a number of queries from schools and parents, and we needed to make it very clear what our legislative requirements were and how schools enact them — supporting principals in particular but also families in what they can expect from schools,” she told the Adelaide Advertiser.
Ms Hayes said the “Transgender and intersex support” procedure, released by the state’s Department of Education and Child Development, would apply to small groups of students who have already moved through their gender transition after a diagnosis from a health professional.
It ensures that those transgender students can:
– Use their preferred first name and pronoun, including she/her, he/him, they/their
– Access school toilets and change rooms that match their gender identity
– Choose their preferred uniform from all options available at the school
– Access sleeping areas on camps and excursions that correspond to their gender identity
– Participate in Physical Education lessons and most school sports as their identified gender
If one or both parents object to the student affirming their gender identity, the school “must assess the best interests of the child to ensure their physical and psychological safety and wellbeing,” according to the policy.
Ms Hayes said the policy for transgender students would send an important message of tolerance to school students.
“We know that gender diverse students experience bullying and harassment from their peers at school and it is vitally important that they know there are processes and procedures in place that support them,” she said.
The SA Education Department also released the broader “Supporting same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students” policy, which said all schools must “incorporate and address sexual, homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying as part of the [school’s] anti-bullying and harassment policy.”
Research cited by the Australian Human Rights Commission found 80 per cent of homophobic bullying involving LGBTIQ young people occurs in schools, and LGBTIQ students felt safer at schools with protective policies in place.
Queensland Action Group for LGBTIQ+ Students chairperson Janet Berry said the same policies must be implented for students in Queensland schools, following the tragic suicide of Brisbane high school student Tyrone Unsworth last November.
“We acknowledge that some Queensland schools are very supportive of LGBTIQ+ students, are delivering school policies that encourage the understanding and acceptance of diversity by staff and students and do not countenance bullying,” she said.
“There needs to be immediate action to address homophobic and transphobic bullying and prevent more mental health issues, absenteeism and suicide among LGBTIQ+ young people in Queensland schools.
“We believe further pre-service and in-service teacher training needs to occur.”
The two new policy documents “Supporting same-sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students” and “Transgender and intersex support” are both available from South Australia’s Department of Education and Child Development website.
If you need someone to talk to, help is always available. Please call QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
(Photo by Jackie Cohen, courtesy of ABC)