Petition calling for end of 'transgender teaching' in schools collects 35,000 signatures

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

A petition asking the Government to "stop transgender teaching in New Zealand schools" has collected 35,000 signatures.

The petition urges the Ministry of Education to "remove learning intentions for teaching gender diversity in the sexuality education guide and to remove the gender diversity teaching resources on the Te Kete Ipurangi website". 

It says teachers are already required to create a safe environment for all students, and "do not have a separate requirement to teach the content of minority groups in the curriculum".

The petition continues: "Why should there be a new expectation to include the teaching of gender diversity?", and that "endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents". 

Ellen MacGregor-Reid from the Ministry of Education told 1 NEWS while the safety and wellbeing of all learners was central to every school community, "LGBTIQA+ young people have told us they need safer and more inclusive places to learn".

"Schools have an obligation to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all learners. Creating an inclusive environment, free of discrimination, enables students to feel physically and emotionally safe, supports academic achievement and student wellbeing, and reduces incidents of bullying."

"All young people need access to information and opportunities to think about, question, and discuss issues related to relationships, gender, sexual identities, sexual orientation, sexual behaviour, sexual and reproductive health, and societal messages.

"Effective education in this area can equip students with the skills, attitudes and understanding necessary to support positive environments and relationships for themselves and their peers – including those with diverse cultures, genders or sexuality.

She said it was "tricky terrain", where schools needed to work with parents and caregivers "to ensure it reflects the needs of the students and their communities".

"Children and young people learn best when they feel accepted."

Examples of this learning at different year levels include:

• Ages 5-7: Questioning and discussing gender stereotypes, and learning to respect their peers.
• Ages 8-12: Students discuss their differences and feel good about themselves. They might also question messages and online social media environments related to gender, sexuality and diversity.
• Ages 12–15: students learn about the physical and emotion effects of sexual identity, and in senior secondary (age 15-18) they critically explore a wide range of issues relating to gender and cultural norms.

Toni Duder of Rainbow Youth said schools have a duty of care to equip students with "knowledge and tools to help them shape their lives in positive ways". 

She said that including material "that shares the basic facts of human diversity is a basic step for schools to take to fulfill this duty of care". 

"Including diversity and information about diverse sexualities, gender identities and sex characteristics is also necessary to assist to promote a culture of acceptance and safety in schools for these communities. Safe and inclusive environments do not exist in many schools."

The Youth 2012 survey of secondary schools found that half of transgender students had been hit or physically harmed in the 12 months previously, and that almost 20 per cent of LGBTQIA+ students reported experiencing weekly bullying. The rate of bullying for other students sat at six per cent, according to Pink Shirt Day.

It also found 20 percent of transgender students had attempted suicide. The survey is set to be repeated this later this year.

"With this current landscape, it is imperative not only the the Ministry of Education ensures guidelines around the teaching of diverse sexualities, gender identities and sex characteristics stays in place in our schools, but that schools who do not provide this in their lessons should be held accountable."

New Conservatives deputy leader Elliot Ikilei told 1 NEWS that the education was "pushing of LGBTIQA+ notions".

"We should be looking at creating an environment that is safe for everyone, but what we're seeing is this real focus on one group at the expense of any other group. 

"We need to be coming back to simplify education to be education, don't include ideologies and start to replace education with that."

He said it could "increase the confusion in our children who often will have a confusing time anyway". 

"We're saying, stop adding to the confusion of our children. We want parents to be parents, we want teachers to be teachers and if there is going to be a case where they're going to proceed with any of the transgender ideology, wait until they're 18. Leave school alone. Let parents and families deal with it the best they can."

He said he would be "more than happy" to consult with the LGBTIQA+ community. 

Helen Houghton, who began the petition, has not yet responded to 1 NEWS' request for comment. 

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