Transgender students in schools - Legal rights and responsibilities
The Department of Education and Communities is committed to providing safe and supportive learning environments that respect and value diversity and are free from violence, discrimination, harassment and vilification. Research shows that a supportive environment in schools can have a lasting impact on both the educational and lifelong outcomes for students.
Most people express the gender that corresponds with their biological sex. There are some people whose gender identity or expression is different from that traditionally associated with an assigned sex at birth. This is known as being transgender. This can occur at any age.
All students, including those who identify as transgender have a right to be treated equitably and with dignity.
What legal rights or protections exist for a student who has identified as transgender?
A student who has identified as transgender enjoys the same legal rights or protections afforded to all students under the duty of care, education and work health and safety laws.
Firstly, under N.S.W. Anti-Discrimination legislation, and the NSW Department of Education and Communities transgender people have a right to equality in education it is prohibited from unlawfully discriminating against a student on the grounds of being transgender
- by refusing or failing to accept the person’s application for admission as a student, or
- in the terms on which it is prepared to admit the person as a student.
- The Department is also prohibited from unlawfully discriminating against a student on transgender grounds:
- by denying the student access, or limiting the student’s access, to any benefit provided by the educational authority, or
- by expelling the student or subjecting the student to any other detriment.
It does not follow that an application for enrolment from a transgender student can never be declined or that a transgender student can never be expelled. Rather, the law requires the student is not subjected to unlawful discrimination when such decisions are made.
The responsibility for ensuring this occurs rests with the institution and its staff. It is incumbent on staff to ensure that such students are not subject to harassment from other students or from anyone else in the school community. This means that teachers must take an active role in eliminating behaviours that threaten the equitable treatment of the transgender student.
Secondly, afford the transgender student the same level of respect and courtesy as you would afford anyone else. If you are confronted by their behaviour or sense of identity it is a reflection of your own gender expectations. Keep uppermost in your thoughts that every human being is deserving of respect. Be prepared to defend the dignity of the student, listen to their views and be open to expanding your own understanding. Our capacity to learn from those who are different in the world is greater than from those who apparently share our commonality. Be a role model to increasingly educate yourself.
Finally, if the student is fully transitioned and attending school as a member of their identified gender, then facilitate their access to activities specifically designated for that gender, respect their identity by referring to them by chosen name and appropriate gender references. For the most part the transgender student simply wants to be acknowledged and treated in the same way as any other member of their identified gender.
The Gender Centre Supporting Youth at School
There is a number of youth identifying as transgender and transitioning at school. The Gender Centre has had a significant expansion of services delivered to schools.
Our engagement with schools involves supporting the school in providing best practice for the student during transition and right through the course of their schooling. This involves inclusive meetings with a variety of stakeholders including principles, welfare teachers, counsellors, parents, year advisers and where necessary external welfare department consultant. It is essential that planning is thorough to allow for best practice to occur. This involves setting time frames with the provision for flexibility, physical alterations and adjustments made at the school for the dignity and safety of the young person, amendments to formal processes to reflect the students name and gender, and ensuring a strong and sensitive support network is in place.
Assisting the transition of a young person at school requires professional development, training, creating awareness, and affecting cultural change. There are a number of components in our delivery model in holistic support of the young person and the school.
Principals and Teachers – Support, Training and Workshops, and Teaching Resources
At a school level we may facilitate a meeting with the Principal and a few other key leaders, for instance the Head Teacher Welfare, the counsellor or the Deputy Principal, to determine the professional development and training that is required for the staff. The workshop is usually held during staff professional development time and delivered as a workshop. Our workshop provides an understanding of transgender, the stages of physical, social and legal transition and best practice for whole school inclusivity, and how to enact best practice support for the young person in transition. We also emphasise the importance of ensuring the school culture continues to embrace diversity, promoting respect, tolerance and inclusivity in a sensitive way that does not cause harm to the young person by focusing attention on ‘transgender’ and having unwarranted attention drawn to the young person. This is a fine and delicate balance that requires specialized support. These workshops have proven effective in providing information to staff and developing their knowledge. Staff benefit from the ability to ask questions from professionals to ensure they feel more confident in assisting the young person who is transitioning at school.
Whole School and Student Body Cultural Inclusion, Workshops, and Leadership
It is equally as important to ensure that the school environment and culture, and student population have the skills to sustain a supportive culture and to bridge knowledge gaps to support understanding. At the whole school level, it is important to ensure that the school culture continues to embrace school values of respect, dignity, fairness, equality, tolerance and diversity of all diversities including transgender.
We at the Gender Centre recognize that each school is unique and as such work with each principale to determine the best ways in which to educate and inform whole of school communities. This may include helping write schools news letters to inform the community of the arrivale of a new diversity within the school population.
Early Intervention: Providing Support to Young People and their Families
Transitioning at school can be exciting and scary at the same time, for both the young person and their parents. Our support extends to the parents and families of the young person. The parents need to be involved in the transition at school. Often parents themselves need support in how to approach the school and how to make changes at home to make sure the family environment remains stable. With our assistance early intervention that achieves positive outcomes is possible for the whole family, the parents, the transgender child and any siblings. Our early intervention practices have proven successful with families staying together and supporting their transgender child on their journey. We are a holistic wrap around service and provide casework support to the child and parent as a unit, and depending on the age of the young person and the consent of the parent, we also provide casework to the child. This journey is a complex process and we support the family with referrals to gender identity specialists including, psychologists, psychiatrist, endocrinologists and surgeons. We are the only specialist transgender service in NSW and we pride ourselves on successful and supportive early intervention for the increasing emergence of transgender youth.
Support for Youth in School under FACS Guardianship is availabe
In some instances we need to be intensively involved in supporting the young transgender person if they under the guardianship of FACS. In these instances, youth have a lower level of support to access to specialist services. Working with youth under FACS guardianship, we are their primary support in working with the school to navigate their transition. We work closely with the school and support staff to make sure that the young person’s needs at school are met at every point of contact. We work with the school to ensure that practices are in place to maintain attendance, as for some young transgender people, school can be daunting during transition.
Group Support Services
For further support contact the Gender Centre on...... 9569-2366
For information regarding Youth and Parents support groups go to our events page
Posted in Support Services