Scotland: School lavatory gender rules still in force after ministers rejected them The Times 15.08.20

The original article is here.

Schoolchildren are still being told to avoid gender-specific lavatories if they do not want to share with a transgender pupil 18 months after the guidance was declared not legal by Scottish ministers.

Guidelines initially promoted by the Scottish government say that trans pupils should not be forced out of gender-specific lavatories and changing rooms if other pupils object. Pupils who feel uncomfortable sharing with a trans boy or girl are advised to go elsewhere, such as a private disabled lavatory, or wait outside until the trans pupil has finished.

The guidance, which was drawn up by LGBT Youth Scotland and Scottish Trans Alliance, highlights the experience of trans pupils who often ask to use the facilities during class time when others are not around, or avoid drinking during the day.

It states: “If a learner feels uncomfortable sharing facilities with a transgender young person, they can be allowed to use a private facility such as an accessible toilet, or to get changed after the trans young person is done. A transgender young person should not be forced to use alternative facilities simply to make other young people feel more comfortable.”

Ministers initially endorsed the guidance but later ruled that it was not legal as it “risked potentially excluding other girls from female-only spaces”.

New guidance was commissioned in March last year but progress stalled during the coronavirus pandemic and the existing guidance remained in force as pupils returned to school last week.

The pressure group For Women Scotland, which believes women’s rights should be reserved for biological females, has lobbied charities and public bodies to compel them to reject the guidance.

Susanne Millar, chief officer of Glasgow health and social care partnership, which integrates shared services between the NHS and Glasgow city council, responded: “We continue to support the practice described in the guidance document and whilst I appreciate your own views and opinion we do not agree that it leads to the exclusion of girls. I have also been advised by LGBT Youth Scotland that they have carried out a legal review and have been provided with advice that no aspect of this guidance has been deemed to be illegal. The document is clearly described as guidance, not a legal document.”

Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland, said: “The guidance does not, in our opinion, undermine the rights of any group or individual and we believe it will contribute to making all our schools safer and healthier for all.”

Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, a children’s charity, said: “By supporting the transgender guidance for schools we aimed to ensure the needs of transgender young people in schools were placed within the wider context that schools should be supporting every child or group to have their needs and rights met . . . the current guidance remains in place for now and we will continue to endorse the guidance while the review is taking place.”

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “We will bring forward updated guidance in this area. It is intended that this will be published shortly and will be subject to an equality impact assessment as well as a child rights and wellbeing impact assessment.

“Progress on the updated guidance has been delayed due to the focus on the coronavirus response.”

Marion Calder, a For Women Scotland spokeswoman, said: “It is not acceptable to put teachers in a position where following guidance in good faith risks them falling foul of the law.

“At a bare minimum, guidance used in schools must be legal. By the Scottish government’s own findings this is not, so it should be immediately withdrawn from use. It is also highly concerning that none of the children’s sector organisations which endorsed the guidance recognised the significant negative impact on girls, and that over a year after this negative impact was publicly acknowledged, not one of them has removed their endorsement.”