By Cheyanne Enciso
Education academics have come out in support of new proposed guidelines for WA schools to include gender-neutral toilets.
The new guidelines are aimed at preventing discrimination against transgender students.
The recommendation comes from Inclusive Education WA (a specialised support system for WA schools), which aims to create a more inclusive environment for LGBTI+ students, staff, and families.
“I support this recommendation and believe it is an important dimension of supporting students who are gender-diverse and ensuring our educational contexts are accessible and safe for all,” says Dr Madeleine Dobson, early childhood lecturer at Curtin University.
But she expects the change will cause problems due to misunderstanding and bias against the LGBTI+ community.
“It is an unfortunate reality that there are some people in the community who are not only ignorant about issues around gender identity but who are actively hateful and seek to incite fear in others,” she says.
But she believes teachers and tutors are in a great position to make a difference.
“We can support our students by advocating for and with them by creating greater awareness, and by seeking to create and sustain a compassionate and empathic culture where diversity and difference are honoured,” says Dobson.
She also hopes that these gender-neutral options will become the norm, as it will be an important feature of how transgender students are supported.
“It also assists with creating safer contexts for everyone.”
Senior education lecturer at Curtin University, Dr Brad Gobby says some schools already have universal access toilets and any decision about adding these toilets should be made on a school-by-school basis.
“The report recommends that schools consider providing gender-neutral toilet options, not replacing current sex separated toilets,” says Gobby.
“Universal access toilets can help some students feel safer in school, which is a good thing.”
Several Perth primary were contacted, but refused to provide a comment.