Implications of transgender schools guidance for female pupils

Like many Scottish local authorities, the City of Edinburgh Council has an Equality, Diversity and Rights Framework. The current framework covers a four year period from 2017 to 2021.

You can read or download this document here.

Appendix 1 (p.8) lists Outcomes, Objectives, Actions and Measures that the framework aims to deliver. Outcome 3 is entitled ‘Improved education and employability services’ and contains a number of different aims.

Outcome 3.7: Children and young people have improved mental health, emotional wellbeing and resilience in schools, and other settings.

In order to achieve this outcome, the council proposes a number of different actions (you can click on the image below to see an enlarged version).

One of these actions is to ‘Ensure schools meet the Guide to supporting transgender young people in school’, linking to a copy of the guidance developed by LGBT Youth Scotland and the Scottish Transgender Alliance. The link in the council document is broken, but you can find the guidance here.

The guidance was funded by the Scottish Government. However, in a recent article in The Sunday Times, the Government were keen to point out that – whilst they funded the guidance – they do not formally endorse it. The inclusion of the Government’s logo on the document was apparently “a simple error”, although at time of writing, the logo still had not been removed from the document.

What does the guidance say?

The aim of the guidance is “to help primary and secondary education staff in Scotland support transgender children and young people”.

Toilets and changing rooms

On p.17, the guidance states that it is important “that trans young people are able to use the facilities they feel most comfortable with”.

Later in the same section, it states that “If parents of other children voice concerns about their child sharing toilets and/or changing rooms with a trans learner, they should be reminded of the school’s ethos of inclusion, equality and respect.”

Under the sub-heading ‘Good practice’, it states that “If a learner feels uncomfortable sharing facilities with a transgender young person, they can be allowed to use a private facility such as an accessible toilet, or to get changed after the trans young person is done. A transgender young person should not be forced to use alternative facilities simply to make other young people feel more comfortable.”

PE and Sport

On p.20, the guidance states that “If school competitions or classes are organised by gender, a transgender young person should be allowed to compete in the category which matches their gender identity.” (Note that no distinction is made between primary and secondary school sports.)

It also says that “For inter-school competitions not governed by national sports bodies, the same standards should apply.”

Trips, residentials and other activities

On p.21, under ‘Good Practice’, the guidance states that “If a transgender young person wants to share a room with other young people who share their gender identity, they should be able to do so.”

It also says that “If a transgender young person is sharing a room with their peers, there is no reason for parents or carers of the other young people to be informed.”

Implications for female pupils

It is not hard to see the implications of this guidance for female pupils. The council has instructed all high schools to allow any pubescent or post-pubescent male pupil who identifies as a girl to use female toilets, changing rooms and shared sleeping accommodation on school trips. The guidance also makes clear that if girls object to this policy, they are the ones who must use alternative facilities. And it states that parents of the other children need not be informed or consulted about this.

The council is also asking all city high schools to allow any pubescent or post-pubescent male pupil who identifies as a girl to compete in school sports competitions against female pupils.

The City of Edinburgh Council has effectively ended its policy of sex segregation for these purposes in schools.

This guidance has been endorsed by a number of public and voluntary sector organisations.

Those public sector organisations have an obligation to carry out what are known as Equality Impact Assessments (EIA) of their policies. The aim of an EIA is to assess the impact of a policy on groups protected under the Equality Act 2010 (known as ‘protected characteristics’). An EIA would consider how a policy impacts on people with these ‘protected characteristics’.

• Age

• Disability

• Sex

• Race

• Religion or brlief

• Sexual orientation

• Marriage or civil partnership

• Pregnancy and maternity

• Gender reassignment

You would therefore expect a public sector body to consider the impact of one of their policies on the rights of women and girls (under the ‘sex’ protected characteristic).

A feminist campaigner lodged a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to ask the public bodies listed in the guidance whether they had carried out an EIA of the guidance. None had. This was reported by a number of media outlets.

What you can do

You can contact your elected representatives to express your concern about this guidance.

You can find your local councillors (in Edinburgh you will have four councillors in your ward) by typing your postcode here. You can find your MSPs here (and bear in mind that you have one constituency MSP and seven ‘list’ MSPs). You can find your MP here. You may want to contact your MP using this website.

All your elected representatives should hold regular surgeries in your locality, where you can just turn up (usually without a prior appointment) to speak to them face to face.

Consider contacting your child’s headteacher and the school’s parent council to ask them whether they are implementing this policy.

<<< Written by a Guest Author and first published on August 5, 2018 >>>