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 WA

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 Western Australia.

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 (WA) Download PDF (214 KB)

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 Western Australia?

The Western Australian Equal Opportunity Commission published the Guidelines for supporting sexual and gender diversity in schools to assist schools and students. The Guidelines recommend that schools consider issues relevant to transgender students, including that gender-neutral uniform options be made available to all students.

Beyond this document, there are no further policy guidelines for catering for the needs and interests of trans and gender diverse students in public schools in Western Australia.

Where to get help and more information

  • Justice Connect has a fact sheet on How to deal with gender discrimination available online.
  • Parents of Gender Diverse Children provides peer support nationally to parents and those parenting trans and gender diverse children. To access their resources or make an enquiry, visit the PGDC website.
  • TransFolk of WA is a support service for all transgender people and their loved ones in Western Australia.
  • The Freedom Centre provides safe social spaces, peer support, information and referral for young gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer and questioning young people under the age of 26.
  • The Equal Opportunity Commission Western Australia provides a useful guide for schools regarding the legal rights and responsibilities around transgender students in schools.

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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