What legal rights do you have at school as a trans or gender diverse young person?

28 August 2019

A resource for trans and gender diverse young people and their families in Victoria

This fact sheet answers some common questions trans and gender diverse young people, and their families, have about their rights at school in relation to school uniforms, bathrooms, camps and sports teams.

By reading this resource you will get a better understanding of your rights at school in Victoria.

This fact sheet includes:

  • What counts as legal discrimination?
  • What can you do if you are discriminated against?
  • What laws protect trans and gender diverse young people?

Download fact sheet

Fact sheet: Your legal rights at school (VIC) Download PDF (218 KB)

  Not in Victoria?

This resource explains your rights in Victoria. We also have resources for:

VIC | NSW | QLD | SA | ACT | NT | TAS | WA

What is discrimination at school?

Generally speaking, discrimination means treating (or proposing to treat) someone unfairly or less favourably than others because of one or more of their personal characteristics. This can happen in different places and contexts.

Discrimination is only against the law when it happens in an area of public life, including schools. This means it is against the law for schools and teachers to discriminate against you, either directly or indirectly, on the basis of your gender identity.

What counts as discrimination?

It is discriminatory, and therefore unlawful, for a school to treat you less favourably than other students because you are trans and gender diverse, such as by:

  • Refusing or failing to accept your application for admission as a student
  • Only admitting you as a student on certain terms (that would not otherwise apply)
  • Denying you access, or limiting your access, to any benefit provided by the school
  • Expelling or subjecting you to any disadvantage

Are there any exceptions?

Yes, there are some exceptions.

For example, it is usually not against the law to discriminate against someone in sport on the basis of their gender where the activity is a competitive sport and some competitive advantage may be gained (and where children are aged over 12). This could involve refusing or failing to select someone for a sporting team or excluding them from participating in the sporting team.

What can you do about gender discrimination at school?

If you are being discriminated against by a school and or teacher because you are trans and gender diverse, you have the right to make a complaint or take legal action. Take a look at our fact sheet on dealing with gender discrimination.

Are there any laws in Australia that protect the rights of trans and gender diverse students?

No, but education policies and guidelines exist which address aspects of schooling for trans and gender diverse students such as:

  • changing your name/gender used at school
  • school uniforms
  • bathrooms
  • school camps
  • sports teams

Policies and guidelines are important and do help protect transgender rights at school. Some states have started to implement policies in line with broader anti-discrimination legislation. However, they don’t carry the same authority as legislation.

The policies that guide schools vary depending on which state or territory you live in, as well as which school you go to.

 

What about in Victoria?

The Victorian Department of Education and Training’s ‘School Policy Advisory Guide’ has provided the following guidance to schools and teachers in regards to gender identity:

The purpose of this policy guidance is to ensure schools support students’ gender identity, including those with intersex status, in line with both the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).

Under this policy, the school may elect to create a ‘school management plan’ with a student, which should, amongst other things, cater for a student’s gender identity and settle appropriate arrangements in relation to toilet facilities.

The Victorian Government also funds the ‘Safe Schools’ program. This program encourages schools to foster a safe environment that is supportive and inclusive of LGBTI students, by providing access to resources, education and training for staff and students.

Where to get help and more information

This resource was published 28/08/2019. This is legal information only and does not constitute legal advice. You should always contact a lawyer for advice specific to your situation.

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