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Schools warned as ‘gender critical’ group seeks information on trans students

Schools are urged to protect students’ privacy as a “gender-critical” group seeks information about transgender students.

The Ministry of Education was aware of a widely circulated email requesting information and was contacted by schools to inquire about its legality.

Email, seen by things, It was directed to “all middle and high schools” and sent by the women’s human rights group, Education Aotearoa.

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She asked about the number of transgender students enrolled in middle and high schools, “what problems, if any,” and “actions that would support schools in managing this new trend.”

The email asked for information, distinguishing between those who had been sexed at birth and those who were “identified” as transgender men and women, as well as non-binary, intersex fluid, “or similar”.

It also requested information such as the annual and ethnic group of any student of diverse sex, and any correspondence the school had with the student when enrolment was contemplated or approved.

The rainbow charity InsideOUT also confirmed that schools contacted them about the email last week. Managing Director Tabby Beasley said his language, such as referring to transgender people as a “trend,” showed a lack of understanding of gender diversity.

Any person or organization can request information held by a school or Cora, said Lauren Monahan, director of official information for the Department of Education, but schools should consider appropriate information to provide, particularly regarding transgender and gender-diverse students.

“We would be very concerned about disclosing any information that might identify students or violate their privacy.”

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Students at Christchurch Girls’ High School attempted to lead a sexual harassment protest against a nearby boys’ school earlier this year, but were turned away. (The video was first published in March 2021.)

Any school or Quora that received the email was encouraged to contact the New Zealand Association of School Trustees or Te Ronanga Nui for advice. The Ombudsman’s office can also advise on obligations under the Official Information Act.

Margaret Corno, education member of Aotearoa, said the “gender critical group” had met through the Speak Up for Women Facebook page, but was not affiliated with that group.

She said the group of volunteers were “experienced teachers,” including some retired teachers and others still teaching.

New Relationships and Gender Guidelines cover consent, gender norms, gender identity, sexual orientation, and criticism of societies' ideas of relationships.

New Relationships and Gender Guidelines cover consent, gender norms, gender identity, sexual orientation, and criticism of societies’ ideas of relationships.

Cornu said the group had “increasing concerns” about new sex education curricula that extended to sex education and sexual relations and was particularly interested in guidelines issued by the Education Ministry last year.

“We believe that gender non-conforming students should be encouraged to be so,” she said in a statement on behalf of Education Aotearoa.

The group believes that schools have been encouraged to “establish policies and practices that put the needs of transgender children before the needs of other children,” it said.

She said the group had no problem with adults relocating, but that young people should never be “encouraged or supported to make permanent decisions” to relocate.

Dr. Rachel Dixon says the new relationships and sex education guidelines reflect what students want to learn.

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Dr. Rachel Dixon says the new relationships and sex education guidelines reflect what students want to learn.

Dr Rachel Dixon, co-chair of the New Zealand Health Education Association, said learning about relationships and sex education was supported by education authorities and human rights laws.

“There is no evidence anywhere in the world that education about gender would cause someone to change their gender identity.”

Dixon, a lecturer at the University of Canterbury, was part of a team working to create resources to help schools and educators implement new relationship and sexual education guidelines.

Dixon says the new guidelines reflect what young people want to learn.

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Dixon says the new guidelines reflect what young people want to learn.

She said the updated guidelines, issued by the Ministry of Education last year, prioritized relationships for the first time. They have covered consent, gender norms, gender identity, sexual orientation, and criticism of societies’ ideas of relationships.

She said the demand for education Aotearoa was “counter-productive” to what the new curriculum was trying to achieve.

It was important for students to learn to critically evaluate the information they encounter, particularly on social media.

“Young people know about these things… they want to talk about them, they want educators who are able to open up this conversation in a safe and inclusive way.

“Young people accept difference.”

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