Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland school transgender guidelines criticised

Transgender graphic
Image caption The guidance covers issues ranging from uniforms and naming to use of toilets and changing rooms

Guidelines for schools on supporting transgender pupils are "flawed," according to an Education Authority (EA) board member.

Nelson McCausland made the comments in a personal statement to an EA board meeting held before the guidelines were made public.

The detailed guidance was published by the EA in October.

However Mr McCausland had called for further consultation before it was issued to schools.

His fellow board member Jonathan Craig also called for the same thing.

The guidance for supporting transgender pupils in schools was discussed at an EA board meeting in Antrim on 26 September 2019.

The approved minutes of that meeting have just been published by the EA.

'Dismissive'

At the meeting, Mr McCausland received permission for a personal statement to be read into the minutes.

"We are all aware that there are divergent views on the nature of transgenderism and concerns have been articulated by radical feminists, social conservatives and many academics as well as many who come from a faith-based perspective," he said.

"The development of this guidance has failed to take due cognisance of that diversity of viewpoints and is flawed."

Mr McCausland went on to state that the guidance did not just cover practical matters but "includes a theoretical examination of transgenderism."

"This has been written from a transgender affirming perspective and has not reflected other perspectives other than in a cursory and minimalist way."

"In effect it is dismissive of such views."

Mr McCausland also claimed that faith-based organisations were not represented on a steering group set up by the EA.

"Several groups did meet with officers in the Equality Unit but they were excluded from the core process, were not consulted on the final document and indeed have never seen it," he said.

"The Inequalities Working Group received presentations from transgender organisations and from one principal from an LGBT affirming school but we did not hear from faith-based organisations."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Nelson McCausland is a former DUP MLA and is an Education Authority board member

He called for a public consultation on the guidance before it was formally issued to schools by the EA.

However, the EA's chairperson Sharon O'Connor told Mr McCausland the guidance had already been debated extensively by board members at a number of meetings.

"She considered that the member was frustrating business," the board minutes said.

An un-named board member "expressed deep concern that a continued delay to provide guidance to schools on this matter would impact on the achievements and well-being of vulnerable children and young people."

Another un-named member said the guidance had been developed in response to requests from schools to provide pastoral support.

In a subsequent vote on the matter, a majority of members of the board rejected a proposal by Mr McCausland and Mr Craig to delay issuing the guidance until a public consultation had taken place.

It was subsequently published by the EA in mid-October.

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