Supporting trans and gender diverse students
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 3, 23 April 2019, page no. 23
We are all becoming more aware of the crucial role schools play in supporting trans and gender diverse students. Consequently, and pleasingly, there is a growing body of resources available to help schools and teachers make their classrooms and communities safer and inclusive for all students.
Keeping at-risk students at school is a priority for all of us. We can all play our part, big and small, to ensure schools are as inclusive and welcoming as possible.
The QTU has received a growing number of queries from members asking where to find resources, and how best to support students who may identify as trans, non-binary or gender diverse. Alternatively, they may have students who are currently transitioning, or are planning to transition, at their school and need to investigate what support is in place.
It is really important for schools to develop a local policy, and that they don’t wait for an individual student to identify before considering which supportive changes need to be made. It is better to be proactive in this instance, as it sends a clear signal to all students that the school understands and cares. It is very challenging for a student (and family) in need to be the one driving a school to navigate new territory.
Sending clear signals to students and parents that the school is welcoming and supportive for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) students and parents is a great start; Queensland Government rainbows have been adopted by many schools, celebrating Wear It Purple Day (30 August - www.wearitpurple.org), displaying rainbow stickers, or like Cairns SHS, flying the rainbow flag during Pride Week (the first Queensland school to ever do so).
The department has developed a suite of factsheets to assist students, parents, principals and schools in developing a policy (https://education.qld.gov.au/students/student-health-safety-wellbeing/students-with-diverse-needs#LGBTIQ). These documents cover the relevant policy and legislation requirements (such as anti-discrimination and human rights) and the most commonly sought-after information, such as uniform, toileting, OneSchool and sport. These can be found on the department’s website, and also on OneSchool. Specific enquiries and support can be sought from firstname.lastname@example.org
True (formally known as Family Planning Queensland) is a long-respected organisation that delivers a wide range of professional development and in-school programs throughout the state. Working closely with the department, it has developed the Capability, Confidence and Diversity initiative, which provides professional development and support for school staff in maintaining educational environments that are inclusive for all students, including those who may be LGBTIQ+. This involves phone support, online and mixed-mode professional development, and advice for schools to enhance parent and carer engagement. You can access information on support for schools, including professional development, at www.true.org.au/Education/lgbtiq-inclusive-education
While the department has provided some base funding for this work, as a result of a generous philanthropist there is the capacity for some communities to have heavily subsided access to programs in their schools. True’s professional development programs can be tailored to individual settings and needs and have the capacity to be accessed after school or during student free days.
For more than four years, the QTU’s training and education centre, QTEC, has been running workshops co-delivered with True to provide quality professional development in this area for QTU members. Workshops have taken place in Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Gladstone, the Sunshine Coast, and Springwood, and one is scheduled for early June on the Gold Coast. For more information contact email@example.com.
Excitingly, the Queensland College of Teachers has also established a LGBTIQ+ Stakeholder group, and last October screened for the first time a free webinar titled "Genders and sexualities: wellbeing". The QCT has committed to continuing with this important work.
Parents and family of LGBTIQ+ students and young people can access local support through PFLAG (pflagaustralia.org.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org).
For more information and advice, contact Penny Spalding at email@example.com