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School transgender guidelines will not be reviewed

Campaigners claim guidance is in conflict with Equality Act and UN human rights legislation.

Inclusivity: 96% of trans children have been bullied at school (file pic).
Inclusivity: 96% of trans children have been bullied at school (file pic). Reuters

The Scottish Government has ruled out a review of guidance for schools about transgender children.

Earlier this month, Scotland's Children's Commissioner Máire McCormack said changes should be made to some recommendations in the guidance, which was drawn up by the organisation LGBT Youth Scotland.

In a letter to equalities minister Christina McKelvie, Ms McCormack said her office had received "a number of complaints" about the guidance.

These concerns centre on whether or not the guidance complies with the Equality Act and the broader human rights framework, she said.

Ms McCormack called for a Child's Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) to be undertaken on the guidance "prior to (it) being further promoted or used in schools".

She wrote: "The Scottish Government has committed to human-rights based approaches to the delivery of children's services and fulfilment of its duty to ensure that guidance is available for those working with all children and young people to help to support their wellbeing needs and best interests.

"As part of this, the commissioner welcomes the preparation of a CRIA for all practice guidance materials and resources which are intended for use in schools and educational establishments in Scotland. This ensures that all guidance follows international human rights standards and is compliant with existing domestic and international law."

The guidance was originally published in 2017 by LGBT Youth Scotland and the Scottish Trans Alliance, after research found 96% of trans children are bullied at school and 63% experience suicidal thoughts.

It includes suggestions for overcoming barriers such as respecting a young person's gender identity and the facilities they want to use, as well as ensuring pupils can compete in their sporting category of choice.

In a statement, LGBT Youth Scotland said about the guidance: "Young people have the right to an education free from discrimination and prejudice. LGBT Youth Scotland developed Supporting Transgender Young People to assist teachers in creating a positive school ethos, where all young people, including trans young people, can achieve their full potential.

"It is informed by decades of experience working with LGBT young people and was written in close consultation with teachers, young people and youth work and children's rights organisations."

https://stv.tv/news/scotland/1407539-bullying-of-lgbt-children-on-rise-in-scottish-schools/ | default

However, campaign group Women and Girls in Scotland claims the guidelines do not fully take into account the needs of other protected groups of young people.

Their concerns stem in part from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 2 of which enshrines a girl's right to request privacy.

In its own assessment of the guidelines, the group stated: "The guidance recommends that transgender young people be allowed to use the toilets and changing facilities that they are most comfortable with.

"This means that male bodied young people could be sharing intimate spaces with female young people, potentially compromising their right to privacy and dignity."

The group suggested that, rather than sharing bathrooms or changing rooms, trans children should be "accommodated by allowing them to use alternative facilities, such as the staff changing room".

Concerns were also raised about trans children having an "unfair advantage" in sports and potential conflicts with religious beliefs.

The group is now calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that the guidance is not in conflict with existing rights legislation and, if necessary, to commission a new set of guidelines.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said the guidance had the full support of ministers.

They added: "Scotland is on its way to becoming the first country in the world to have lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) inclusive education embedded in the curriculum. Our education system must support everyone to reach their full potential and it is vital that the curriculum is as diverse as the young people who learn in our schools.

"As this is not a Scottish Government publication, it would be inappropriate for the Scottish Government to undertake any review. The guidance is one of a range of tools available to schools and education authorities in their support for transgender pupils."

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