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Boarding schools given new guidance on accepting transgender students

Joseph McCormick July 17, 2016

Boarding Schools have been given new guidance on how to address transgender pupils.

New guidance issued by the Boarding Schools Association aims to help teachers to navigate a “minefield” of dealing with trans students.

Included in the guidance is “new language” including the gender-neutral pronoun zie for students who do not wish to be addressed using gendered pronouns like he or she.

The guidance is sent to top boarding schools including Eton, Westminster and High Wycombe.

The authors of the guidance also recommended that schools display an equality pledge for visitors.

Other terms like genderqueer and pansexual are also included in the guidance.

The new guidance reminds teachers and administrators that they have an obligation under the Equality Act 2010 to protect trans students.

Some have already introduced gender-neutral uniform policies including Brighton College which made the announcement in January.

In addition, the guidance recommends that teachers at single-sex schools refrain from using phrases like “young women”, “boys”, or “young ladies”, and use neutral terms like “pupils” or “students”.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Elly Barnes, the founder of the Educate and Celebrate charity, and an author of the new guidelines, said: “Schools need to make sure that all students are treated equally and fairly according to the Equality Act.

“We need to educate adults to speak a common language because we grew up in a generation with no prior experience about the LGBT communities.”

She pointed to estimates that around ten percent of people in the UK identify as LGBT+, and said it is important to “make reasonable adjustments”.

Of gender-neutral pronouns, she said: “It’s a new language that’s absolutely needed in schools. We have, of course, restrictions within the English language but the more we use these pronouns the more they become part of the language.

“If you’re new to the ‘trans’ community, this is very new language.”

Alex Thompson, deputy chief executive of the Boarding Schools’ Association said teachers had asked for the guidance as they felt “in the dark” about what is acceptable.

He said: “Teachers, heads and deputy heads were asking questions about these issues and they felt they were in the dark on what was politically correct and had fears of causing offence as young people largely between the ages of 13 and 18 were questioning their gender identity.

“There was a strong understanding when it more obvious and direct when someone came out as gay but not in the area where young people were asking ‘who am I?’ to a member of staff and these were questions they had not been asked before.”

He continued: “It’s amazing how complicated the whole thing is in a community where the norms are the ones we have accepted for years.

“It’s tricky for individuals that are having difficulty accepting there is something beyond the binary system of gender we take for granted.

“Adults for the first time are meeting a pupil who says ‘My name is Bill but I wear a dress. One day I could be male, or female or right in the middle.’”

Last year Boarding schools were told to adopt gender neutral uniform policies, in order not to discriminate against LGBT pupils.

More: boarding schools, Elly Barnes, genderqueer, Trans, UK

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