Gender identity, clash between three DECs and the provincial government

FREDERICTON – There is a tug of war in New Brunswick between some school districts (DEC: District Education Council) and the provincial (conservative) government which has introduced a ban on teachers and school staff from using the name and pronoun chosen by students under 16 who have doubts about their gender identity, unless their parents consent. 

Until now, it was mandatory to obtain parental consent to change the name of a child under 16 on official documentation such as report cards, but Education Minister Bill Hogan has announced the extension of this requirement to include informal name changes. noun and pronoun. And if the student objects to the inclusion of parents in this choice, they should be referred to a school psychologist or social worker to develop a “plan” to include the parents. 

As we said, the decision caused a reaction from three school districts: Francophone South, Anglophone East and Anglophone South. The three institutions have announced that they will take action against the changes to Policy 713, which in 2020 had introduced the possibility for all students to be referred to by their preferred pronouns and nouns without involving their parents. In fact, the three school districts fear that the changes decided by the provincial government will jeopardize the health and safety of the school community.

The New Brunswick Association of School Psychologists has also spoken out against the changes, saying they are forcing students to choose between coming out to their parents when they aren’t quite ready or having their identities rejected by school staff.

“The misgendering of transgender and gender-differentiated people increases the risk of self-harm, suicidal ideation and other mental health problems” the association previously said. The union of school psychologists and social workers has filed two complaints against the changes to Policy 713, saying it makes them complicit in harming children and is forcing them to contravene the human rights law. The union itself says it has not been consulted on the policy review and its members will verbally comply with a student’s request for a different pronoun regardless of parental consent.

Last week, Anglophone East and Anglophone South passed policies effectively using the old definition, requiring school staff to verbally respect all students’ choice of first name or pronoun regardless of age or parental consent. Now that the Southern Francophone School District is doing the same thing. Minister Hogan removed any reference to gender identity in the Policy 713 provision on extracurricular activities. but all three school districts are restoring that benchmark, mandating that students be able to participate in extracurricular activities that are safe, welcoming, and “consistent with their gender identity”. The tug of war, therefore, is only at the beginning.

The story is also having aftermath at the federal level: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attacked the Conservatives of New Brunswick, calling them “extreme right-wing political actors … who seek to overcome themselves with the cruelty and isolation they can inflict on these already vulnerable people. Trans children need to feel safe, not targeted by politicians” Trudeau said.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre replied: “Trudeau should stop discussing New Brunswick’s policy on LGBTQ2S+ students in schools. The prime minister has nothing to do with the decisions that should be up to the provinces and parents” said Poilievre on Tuesday, adding: “My message to Trudeau is: butt out and let provinces run schools and let parents raise kids”.

Pic by Kenny Eliason from Unsplash