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A response to claims made by the Christian Institute

The Christian Institute issued a press release[1] and letter to local authorities calling on them to withdraw their support for guidance produced by LGBT Youth Scotland for Scottish schools ‘Supporting Transgender Young People’.

We refute the claims made by the Christian Institute regarding this guidance. The guidance was developed working with teachers and organisations that hold expertise in education and children’s rights ; and the content is based on the lived experiences of transgender young people in school.

The Christian Institute have a history of anti-LGBT campaigning and this is clearly an attempt to make claims to discredit the guidance. This is deeply concerning as transgender young people continue to face significant disadvantage with research showing that education is the place where they experience the most discrimination and 82%[2] of transgender young people experience bullying in school settings.

 

Below are the key points raised by the Christian Institute, and LGBT Youth Scotland’s response:  

 

1.     The Christian Institute claims that the Scottish Government has removed its endorsement for the guidance.

Scottish Government has not removed its support for the guidance. The development of the resource was funded by the Scottish Government and this is clear in the guidance.  The Scottish Government does not endorse guidance documents as such and this was a technical error in its original print. Claims that they no longer support the guidance are therefore inaccurate.  

In response to the claims made by the Christian Institute, Christina McKelvie, Minister for Older People and Equalities, has spoken out about the continued support from the Scottish Government.

The Minister has stated:

“We recognise the particular disadvantage experienced by trans people across many walks of life and are supportive of all measures to increase inclusion in schools for pupils and staff alike.  Scotland is recognised as one of the most progressive countries in Europe on LGBTI rights, and it is paramount we continue efforts to tackle all forms of prejudice, including any linked to gender identity.

The Scottish Government is supportive of the guidance produced by LGBT Youth Scotland on supporting young trans people.  We did not take any decision to formally endorse the guidance as we do not take a prescriptive approach to the curriculum in Scotland.  It is up to individual schools and local authorities how they deliver relevant and engaging learning, and who they work with to do so.”

 

2.     In their recent press release the Christian Institute claims that this guidance is “ordering teachers” not to tell parents if their child changes gender.

This is a ‘guidance document’ and as such, it does not enforce practice. However, as stated above it was developed working with experts in their respective fields and includes good practice in supporting transgender young people effectively.

Our guidance recommends:

  • That teachers, in initial conversations with a transgender young person, should ‘not … agree to anything they’re not sure of’ and to seek advice from their line manager, their local authority and / or an external agency as required.
  • That teachers ‘should ask the young person if they can share information and with whom’. This is usual practice when working with young people[3] and can be particularly important when working with LGBT young people as sharing information could put them in a situation where they could be vulnerable.
  • This should not be conflated with people under 16 making official changes to records. On changing name and gender formally within the school, the guidance recommends that young people under 16 require parental / carer permission.

 

3.     The Christian Institute states that the guidance ‘repeatedly anticipates that teachers and schools will share information about a child or young person with third parties outside the school without parental consent’.

LGBT Youth Scotland strongly refutes this as ensuring confidentiality and ways to share information appropriately are noted throughout the guidance. Our guidance states that:

  • Teachers should not ‘disclose the gender history or any sensitive information about a trans young person to anyone inside or outside the school, without the consent of the young person’.
  • That teachers can ‘discuss situations in general terms, ensuring that (they) do not share personal information or ‘out’ the young person unintentionally’.
  • Where teachers are concerned about the home environment and the safety of a young person, they ‘should follow the school’s procedures for recording and / or acting on such concerns’. Highlighting the guidance’s commitment to the safeguarding of children and young people.

 

4.     The Christian Institute assert that ‘parents should be told if their child has to share a bedroom with an opposite sex pupil who ‘claims’ to be transgender’.

The use of the word ‘claims’ implies that some children and young people are not being truthful regarding their gender identity. LGBT Youth Scotland is not aware of any such cases and finds the language used here prejudicial.

The guidance is clear that it is not good practice to share a young person’s gender status with other parents ‘without the young person’s express permission to do so’.  Not only do all young people and their families have right to privacy, it would be unlawful to share personal or ‘sensitive information’ without their consent under current GDPR[4] legislation – unless there was clear safeguarding reason to do so.

Our guidance also sets out that ‘private changing facilities and bathrooms should always be available for learners wherever possible’. 

 

5.     The Christian Institute describe hypothetical situations where young people are ‘forced’ to use toilets or changing facilities with trans people which is in ‘disregard’ for their personal privacy.

In summary our guidance states:

  • Teachers should ‘respect a young person’s gender identity’ and no young person should be banned from using particular facilities[5].
  • If another learner feels uncomfortable sharing facilities with a trans young person, they can be provided with a private facility such as an accessible toilet, or be allowed to get changed at another time. However, a transgender young person should not be forced to use alternative facilities simply to make other young people feel more comfortable.
  • Good practice would be to establish what the concerns are and take measures to increase the privacy of changing facilities (which many young people would appreciate).

 

6.     The Christian Institute claims that the guidance document ‘contains key errors in relation to the Equality Act 2010’ and has not considered ‘crucial exceptions’.

The Equality Act[6] contains over 200 Provisions across 427 pages, but the Christian Institute and their lawyers fail to provide detail of which ‘errors’ or ‘exceptions’ they are referring to. It is impossible to respond directly to such a vague statement and we are not aware of any errors with regards to the law.

 

7.     The Christian Institute claims that the guidance ‘insists on the rights of the transgender person in every circumstance to the exclusion of the rights of others’.

This statement is incorrect, as noted previously and by definition, guidance does not enforce practice.

  • Whilst LGBT Youth Scotland advocates for the basic human rights of young people, we recognise that human rights are universal – without universality the principle of human rights is put at risk. The guidance clearly sets out how the rights of all can be respected and legislation adhered to, whilst young people are supported through what can be a very difficult time.

 

8.     The Christian Institute claims the guidance has given ‘no regard to the rights of parents’ and other learners.

The Christian Institute are attempting to present a false dichotomy of choosing between two sets of rights holders - those of a young person versus those of a parent. The guidance is clear on the importance of engaging with parents and carers and there is specific content within the guidance regarding how to achieve this effectively.

It is scaremongering to suggest that any other young person would be disadvantaged by schools seeking to sensitively meet the needs of transgender young people. An environment where the rights of all are respected would be universally beneficial.

 

 

[1] For release on Sunday 28 October 2018

[2] Lough Dennell, B.L., Anderson, G. and McDonnell, D. (2018) Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People. LGBT Youth Scotland. Available here: https://www.lgbtyouth.org.uk/media/1354/life-in-scotland-for-lgbt-young-people.pdf

[3] As set out in both the UNCRC (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) https://www.cypcs.org.uk/rights/uncrcarticles and the GIRFEC (Getting it right for every child) model https://www2.gov.scot/Topics/People/Young-People/gettingitright/what-is-girfec.

[4] Much more guidance on GDPR is available online, for example: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation

[5] Discrimination case law has established that transgender people who have started living in accordance with their gender identity must not be banned from using the facilities matching their gender identity. There are several cased including ‘Brook v. New Inn’ (2014).

[6] Although the term ‘gender reassignment’ is used in the legislation, a young person does not need to have undergone any changes or have any medical treatment or assessment for the Act to apply.  If a young person discusses with someone that they are exploring their gender identity or considering using different pronouns in the future, they are legally protected. For further information, see www.equalityhumanrights.com


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