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Schools Should Act To Protect Trans Students


Schools Should Act To Protect Trans Students

(January 24, 2008) More work needs to be done to ensure schools are catering for the health and wellbeing of transgender students, says the OUT THERE! Youth Development Project, following the release of the Human Rights Commission’s report on its Transgender Inquiry.

The report notes that trans children and young people are often dependent on parents and teachers to ensure their human rights are understood and protected.

“This means that schools have a responsibility to provide a safe environment where trans students have the same learning opportunities as other students,” says OUT THERE! National Co-ordinator Nathan Brown. “Harassment of trans students is widespread in single-sex schools, especially boys’ schools.”

Allowing appropriate uniform options, name changes, and unisex changing and bathroom facilities are examples of ways in which schools can be more inclusive.

Encouraging leadership from students in the form of Diversity Groups is another initiative that has already been successful in several schools, including Nayland College in Nelson.
“These groups create a space that affirms diversity and allows any student to get involved, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity,” Brown says. “These groups also need to be linked to school management, student support staff, the health and physical education department, and built into the school culture.”

Existing diversity groups and queer support networks need to be strengthened around awareness of trans issues.

“These support networks are often set up primarily for gay, lesbian and bisexual students,” Brown says. “Training is needed to build queer youth workers’ knowledge about gender identity issues, and to provide information and resources for schools and student leaders.”

OUT THERE! describes the Human Rights Commission’s report as a milestone which it hopes will both increase the wellbeing of trans young people and eventually help all New Zealanders cope better with diversity and difference.

“This report gives a voice to the hundreds of trans men and women around the country who have experienced stigma and discrimination just for being who they are,” Brown says. “It’s incumbent upon us all to listen to these voices and act to make New Zealand a more inclusive society for future generations.”

OUT THERE! is a joint youth development project between the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and Rainbow Youth which aims to create safe communities for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.


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