Changes to the Victorian Government Schools Reference Guide will make it easier for teachers to follow clearer guidelines when dealing with transgender and intersex students.
Although it is plainly stated that schools must be supportive of transgender students, there is still no direct path for teachers and principals to follow when gender identity issues arise.
The guidelines for students with transgender or intersex status now fall under health responsibilities for school management, calling on schools to look at developing a management plan, reviewing toilet facilities, protecting students’ privacy, using preferred names and providing further support.
Transgender Victoria spokeswoman Sally Goldner welcomed the policy inclusion saying although the recognition of transgender and intersex students has been on the Education Department’s radar, the policy was not firmly stated.
-œI suppose the honest answer was they were a bit scared of backlash but now they’re being quite transparent about it and saying that’s the way it is, she said.
-œIt’s a big step forward and it sends a really good message that it’s okay to be transgender and you have to support that person and they have to be safe.
Last July, Education minister Bronwyn Pike launched a department policy document called Supporting Sexual Diversity in Schools which was sent to every primary and secondary school principal in Victoria.
The document provides advice and guidance to schools on how to deal with sexual diversity, combat homophobia and where to find more information and support.
-œWe want all students to be well informed about relationships, emotions, their responsibilities and the need to display respect for their peers so they can feel safe, respected and included, aÂ Department of Education and Early Childhood Development spokesperson said.
-œThat is why we have developed new guidelines for schools that are in keeping with Equal Opportunity legislation and to further support schools to address sexual diversity.
Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria and Trans Melbourne Gender Project (TGMP) developed the Gender Questioning (GQ) guide in 2006 for young people querying their assigned gender.
Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria director Dr Anne Mitchell said the GQ guide has been a useful resource for students, and in the absence of further information, teachers as well.
Mitchell said including a responsibility to support transgender and intersex students in school guidelines is a significant step forward.
-œIt’s the first time there is binding advice in the manual. It’s one thing to say all schools are inclusive of diversity… but the department has gone to the next level in giving operational instruction on how to deal with this in schools.
Apart from the GQ guide and volunteer groups such as Transgender Victoria and TMGP, there is no single place for teachers to turn for advice if gender identity issues arise.
-œThere isn’t an instant answer point -” the answers are there but it’s not just one phone call or one click to get there, Goldner said.
Rainbow Network Victoria, which supports same-sex attracted and transgender youth, GLHV and Transgender Victoria said they would go into schools for training if required.