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Row blazers as Australian school lets pupils cross-dress

Published 24/02/2016

A Sydney school is allowing pupils to cross-dress
A Sydney school is allowing pupils to cross-dress

An Australian high school has sparked a national furore by allowing pupils to wear boy or girl uniforms, regardless of gender.

An education department statement said the Newtown High School of Performing Arts in Sydney had changed its uniform policy to allow all pupils to "wear any part of the available uniform options".

Several parents and students hailed the change as a boon for transgender students who previously needed a psychologist's report to get permission to cross-dress.

But the change was condemned as radical by the Australian Christian Lobby, an influential conservative advocacy group.

A number of MPs this week backed the ACL's call to remove government funding from a national programme aimed at preventing bullying in schools that also advocates allowing cross-dressing.

"It's a deeper problem than just boys choosing to wear a girl's skirt to school," ACL spokesman Wendy Francis said. "What they're trying to do in schools is make boys' and girls' gender disappear."

Nearly 500 schools have signed up to the Safe Schools Coalition Australia, which runs the programme that also advocates that schools allow pupils to cross-dress.

It is not known how many schools adopted that uniform policy, but the education department said Newtown High was not the only one in New South Wales, Australia's most populous state. Newtown High declined to comment.

Maya Saric, who has two children aged 15 and 13 at Newtown High, described the change as progressive and responsive to students' needs.

"All the parents I mentioned it to didn't bat an eyelid and thought it was perfectly reasonable," she said.

Prime minister Malcom Turnbull bent to pressure from MPs by agreeing on Tuesday to review the continuation of eight million dollars in government funding for the Safe Schools programme, which teaches pupils about gay and lesbian issues.

Mr Turnbull was criticised by opposition members and the national teachers' union for launching the review.

Safe Schools Coalition Australia said it welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate to the federal government the positive impact of its programme.

The group's website says it is a national coalition of organisations and schools working to create safe school environments for same-sex attracted, inter-sex and gender-diverse students, staff and families.

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