Is your school uniform policy consistent with Gender Diversity?
We look at the movement in schools towards non gender specific policies and procedures.
At a recent meeting of the Girls' Schools Association (GSA) Head teachers received advice from Gendered Intelligence, a not for profit organisation specialising in support to young transgender people and with a mission to increase the understanding of gender diversity.
The Head teachers were told that phrases used in school like "young ladies" and "young women" should be replaced with gender neutral words like "pupils" "people" or "students".
Some single sex schools have already followed the advice on removing potentially discriminatory language and they have reviewed policies and procedures to create an environment which does not make lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender (LGBT) young people feel out of place or self conscious.
Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, has spoken out against school bullies stopping LGBT pupils from reaching their potential and alleges 1 in 3 LGBT students change their education plans because of homophobic bullying at school. She was speaking on this subject at Brighton College, where the school has recently introduced a non-gender specific school uniform policy. In fact a number of schools including primaries have moved to a uniform policy and dress code which has dropped reference to girls and boys, or in the case of at least one primary school, states pupils can dress in the uniform in which they feel most comfortable.
A representative from Gendered Intelligence confirms about 1% of the population are transgender and some children start to feel they are the wrong sex from the age of 4 onwards. The government supported drive encourages schools to be sensitive to "trans" children who are questioning their identity.
These moves have promoted Christian organisations to raise concerns that young children may be confused which may lead them to question their gender at a time when they are very impressionable. This situation was recently highlighted in an article about the actor and writer Rupert Everett who was quoted saying "I really wanted to be a girl. Thank God the world of now wasn't then ….I'd be on hormones and I'd be a woman". However the champions of gender neutral policies throughout school life are keen to point out that the policies are not about boys wearing skirts in school but providing space and discretion for transgender children in order that they are not highlighted as different in the school environment.
What is the position in law?
Schools have a legal duty to comply with the Equality Act 2010 in the provision of education to young people. This includes avoiding indirect discrimination of LGBT children which may arise where a school policy or procedure such as the school uniform policy applied to all children equally places a group of children or one individual child at a disadvantage.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further or if you have any questions relating to disability or tribunal claims, please contact Sue King on 0113 244 6100.
The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors