Belfast Telegraph

Guidelines for transgender pupils 'flawed', claims Nelson McCausland

Nelson McCausland
Nelson McCausland
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

A former DUP MLA has said guidelines for schools on supporting transgender students are "flawed" and should have been subjected to public consultation.

Nelson McCausland made the comments in a personal statement to a meeting of the Education Authority (EA) board, of which he is a member, on September 26.

The minutes of the meeting have just been published by the EA.

Earlier this month, the body published their first detailed set of guidelines on how schools should support transgender pupils.

The guidelines cover issues such as uniforms, use of toilets and changing rooms, naming and access to sports.

During September's meeting, Mr McCausland received permission to have a personal statement regarding the guidelines be read into the minutes.

"We are all aware that there are divergent views on the nature of transgenderism and concerns have been articulated by radical feminists, social conservatives and many academics as well as many who come from a faith-based perspective," he said.

"However the development of this guidance has failed to take due cognisance of that diversity of viewpoints and is therefore flawed."

Mr McCausland said the guidelines were written in a "gender affirming perspective" and only reflected other views in a "cursory and minimalist way".

He also stated that faith-based organisations were not represented on a Transgender Guidance Steering Group set up by the EA and were not consulted on the final guidance document.

"Moreover Members of this Board have never had the opportunity to hear input from faith-based organisations," he added.

"The Inequalities Working Group received presentations from transgender organisations and from one principal from an LGBT affirming school but we did not hear from faith-based organisations.

"All of this runs contrary to our Section 75 equality obligations in regard to religious opinion.

"It can also be argued that it conflicts with our obligations as regards political opinion, since the latter covers much more than unionism and nationalism, and can include social conservatism."

The former north Belfast MLA said the guidance could be open to judicial review and a public consultation "would help avoid that possibility".

The EA's chairperson, Sharon O'Connor, told Mr McCausland that the guidelines were already debated extensively and she considered he was "frustrating business", according to the minutes of the meeting.

Mr McCausland then tabled an amendment, seconded by former DUP MLA Jonathan Craig, to delay the publication of the guidelines until a public consultation process had been completed.

The amendment was not passed, with two board members voting in favour, ten voting against and six abstaining.

On October 17, the subsequently EA published their guidelines, which apply to pre-schools, primary schools and post primary and special schools.

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