Transgender students in Toronto schools must be accommodated according to their own stated gender preference and do not need to produce official documentation to justify their identity choice, according to a new equity policy.
The Toronto District School Board recently issued new guidelines spelling out the ways students who don’t conform with traditional gender identities should be treated in the classroom.
They include rules stipulating that students be allowed to dictate how they are addressed in correspondence with parents and choose which washrooms to use on school grounds.
“Requiring students to ‘prove’ their gender (by requiring a doctor’s letter, identity documents, etc.) is not acceptable,” the board policy reads. “A student’s self-identification is the sole measure of the student’s gender.”
Students are permitted to use whichever washroom fits with their stated gender preference rather than their birth sex, the document states, adding schools are encouraged to have at least one unisex stall available.
The guidelines also emphasize the need to keep a student’s gender-related choices confidential from their guardians, adding staff should meet with students at the beginning of the school year to discuss which names and pronouns should be used in the school’s communications with parents.
Board spokesman Ryan Bird said the new policy – which marks the first time such regulations have been implemented throughout the organization – were drafted in response to a human rights complaint launched about a year ago.
A transgender student challenged the board after feeling excluded from certain programs or services due to gender, Mr. Bird said. The new guidelines are meant to ensure that no one else feels alienated, he added.
“Regardless of somebody’s situation, we want them to feel safe and welcome in our schools,” Mr. Bird said.
The board policy did not specify whether the rules apply to children over a certain age.
Mr. Bird hailed the policy as an important step, but said the board’s commitment to human rights in the classroom was well-established long before the document’s release on Wednesday.
“It’s a significant step forward for us, but we have been working on breaking down barriers in schools for a long time,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it a big momentous occasion.”