SCHOOLS

Schools always aim to prevent bullying of every kind. With changes in the legislation, this now encompasses the scourge that is transphobic bullying. To comply with legislation, and to provide a safe and healthy school environment, schools if they are not already, should be reviewing their policies and training to recognise, prevent and deal with transphobic bullying.

As it stands, the school environment for gender variant children can be perceived as unsympathetic or even aggressive.  In a school of 500 children, schools should anticipate around 5 pupils being gender variant, and whilst a majority of these children choose to keep their ‘core’ gender identities hidden (from fear of rejection or discrimination), the number who are willing to reveal their identities has grown.  This is largely owing to growing understanding about gender dysphoria and greater support from the law and society in general, and is why all schools should continue to review their policies and training.

TRANSPHOBIC BULLYING

Many schools now have robust procedures in place to deal with bullying.  However, the prevalence of transphobic bullying may be underestimated.  Anyone whose expression of their gender identity may be interpreted as different from wider cultural or social norms of being male or female may experience transphobic bullying.  Schools should not assume these pupils are transgender, but they should remain alert to the fact that other pupils may react negatively to ambiguous expressions of gender.

Although incidences of direct transphobic bullying are relatively rarely identified in schools, where these cases do occur pupils experiencing transphobic bullying may feel a sense of extreme isolation, and schools will want to seek advice on where and how to access specialist support.

Examples of where transphobic bullying could have happened or be likely can be:

  • Where a parent of a pupil has him/herself undergone transition and wishes to accompany the child to/from school
  • A pupil informs a teacher that they are on medication to put a hold on puberty so as not to develop male/female characteristics
  • A mixed gender school has to consider toilet facilities it can provide to a girl who intends to adopt a male gender role
  • A boy who has changed to a girl gender role is subject to internet/phone bullying
  • A girl wants to change to a male pronoun and name and insists on wearing trousers in a girls’ school where only skirts are permitted

Boys or girls may be victims of transphobic bullying, particularly where they are not seen to conform to the perceived gender.

Examples of actual transphobic bullying behaviours may include:

Physical:

  • the use of threatening physical or sexual violence or strength
  • taking or destroying the property of a pupil
  • forcing the removal of clothing
  • forcing someone to do something that they don’t want to do
  • inappropriate touching
  • gestures towards others that have a sexual meaning

Verbal:

  • ridiculing another pupil perhaps for their behaviour, clothing or appearance
  • putting someone down or seeking to intimidate them using humiliating, or offensive transphobic language – the reversal of pronouns, for example, is common in transphobic bullying: ‘he/she’
  • spreading rumours of a sexual nature,
  • questioning gender identity
  • forcing a pupil into isolation
  • unwanted comments that reinforce common stereotypes
  • restricting access to opportunities

Non verbal/psychological:

  • badges displaying innuendo or offensive language
  • exclusion from groups or activities
  • graffiti
  • Cyber bullying/internet bullying
  • Bullying outside the school gates

Transphobic bullying is commonly underpinned by sexist, homophobic, or transphobic attitudes.  In order for these forms of bullying not to go unrecognised, schools must develop specific approaches for dealing with transphobic bullying.  Schools should also always consider in cases of transphobic bullying where links need to be made with their safeguarding procedures or processes.

TRANSPHOBIC BULLYING INFORMATION

For further information and guidance on how staff can recognise, report and respond to transphobic bullying, please link to this report by the DCFS, 2009.

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To help with the issues a transgender child may face in school, the school should consider the following:

  • Ensuring the child has safe toilet arrangements such as the use of the staff toilets, disabled toilets, or a unisex toilet.
  • Changing the child’s name in the school records.  A child’s name can be changed by Deed Poll with parental consent.  If the child is over 16, they can apply for their own Deed Poll without parental consent.
  • Changing the child’s ‘known as’ name in school.
  • Educate and inform any parents who the school feels may object to the gender variant child’s attendance at that school of the facts regarding what ‘transgender’ is.  Place emphasis on the fact that gender variance is, is not a mental condition, is nobody’s choice or fault, but is a result of natural variation in human development.  Should any parent be unable to accept this, they are entitled to remove their child from that school, however, they have no right to demand the removal or isolation of the gender variant child.
  • Ensure that anyone who needs to be aware of the child’s gender variance, is made aware that the child has a right to remain in their school, and a right to education, safety, and happiness just like any other child.

To stop and deter transphobic bullying, deal promptly and definitely with any such incidents, which may take a variety of forms.  Deal promptly and publicly with any incident of transphobic bullying, whether it occur inside or outside the school gates.  Record all incidents, and if necessary and with the child’s and parents agreement, go to the police.  The police will have specialist officers to deal with transphobic hate crime and/or bullying in schools.  Do not ignore transphobic bullying; it will not just go away and it may get worse.

If the subject of transphobic bullying, ensure the child is supported at all times.  They may start to self-harm, and/or feel depressed or suicidal.  Keep a list of resources to help the child, such as the telephone no. of Childline, Lifeline, or The Samaritans. (Please see our Resources – Helplines section)

SCHOOL DUTIES RELATING TO EQUALITY AND DISCRIMINATION

Schools have a legal duty to take measures to prevent all forms of bullying, including transphobic bullying, to protect pupils from harm, and to ensure their physical and mental health and well-being.

There are also specific legal duties and powers relevant to schools in relation to tackling discrimination.  These are important to consider in relation to anti-bullying policy where the bullying is motivated by prejudice, as is the case with transphobic bullying.  The duties and powers relevant to transphobic bullying are: The Equality Act 2006, the Gender Recognition Act 2004, the Gender Equality Duty 2007, the Equality Bill 2009, and Section 75 of the NI Act 1998.

INFORMATION SOURCED FROM

GIRES WEBSITE GUIDENCE PDF

The ‘Guidance for schools on preventing and responding to sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying’ report by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009.  This guidance was developed to help school staffs recognise, report, and respond to various forms of bullying, including transphobic bullying.  Click to link to this report.

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