Wednesday 17 July 2019

Schools get guidelines on uniforms and toilets for transgender pupils

Sandra Irwin-Gowran of GLEN. Pic Tommy Clancy
Sandra Irwin-Gowran of GLEN. Pic Tommy Clancy
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

All-girls schools may need to allow trousers as part of their uniform, according to new Department of Education guidelines on dealing with transgender students in second-level schools.

For the first time, schools will receive practical advice on how to address the needs of students who identify as transgender - many of whom make the transition in their teenage years.

The guidelines, launched by Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan, also cover issues such as the name and pronoun by which the student wants to be addressed, toilets or changing rooms, PE and sport.

Where schools have a uniform for PE or sports, they are advised a transgender student should be able to wear clothing for their preferred gender.

Skirted swimsuits, baggy shorts or short wetsuits are suggested as options to avoid issues that could develop due to revealing nature of this type of clothing.

The guidelines state that transgender students should feel safe and supported when accessing toilets and changing rooms. They should be able to access facilities that correspond to their gender identity, or a single unisex facility.

The "Being LGBT in School" pack builds on previous resources aimed at supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and was developed in association with the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), the Transgender Equality Network (TENI), school management bodies, teacher unions and the child and family agency, Tusla.

GLEN's director of education Sandra Irwan-Gowran said: "Every classroom in every school has young people who are LGBT. School life for many of these young people is still very difficult, often with serious consequences for the self-esteem and mental health."

Transgender describes people whose gender expression is different from the sex listed on their birth certificate. They often choose to change their first name, and schools are advised to discuss with the student, and parents, where appropriate, how they wish to be addressed.

The new guidelines state that transgender students should be permitted to wear a uniform that is consistent with their identity, adding that all-girls' schools may need to consider allowing trousers while all-boys' schools should consider "a variation in uniform options".

Irish Independent

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