Upon my return from working with PEACE in Hawaii (a report is forthcoming) my first call was from a Toronto parent whose Grade 1 daughter was being forced to go to the washroom with a boy whose parents have chosen to identify him as a girl.
To protect the parents, children and school, specific information is being withheld. However, this is an important event of which parents need to be aware.
This is a sensitive issue and touches on the rights of parents – on both sides of the issue. It is the very reason that people of faith need to create a P.E.A.C.E. Chapter in their community – to learn how to respond to such issues in a way that does not impose our values, but shares our needs.
During a phone conversation the mother of a female child in the class shared that the 6 year old children were with the child through JK, when he was a boy. During kindergarten the lesbian parents chose to have the child attend a different school. Last week, the child returned to the school for Grade 1 and the parents told the Principal that he is to now be treated as a girl.
They insisted that by law the school must honor their request; that this biological boy be called a girl, be allowed to attend the washroom with the girls, and in future change with the girls.
The concerned mother shared that the transgendered child has become very interested in all of the fuss about how boys and girls are different and is showing off his genitalia, and wanting to see how the girls are different. Teachers have been told that the classmates must refer to the child as a girl, and when they make a mistake, they are to be disciplined.
When a child must go to the washroom at the school, the policy is that they go with a partner. The parents of the girls in this class are very concerned.
What are the rights?
According to the Human Rights Code, which was amended by Bill 33 (Toby’s Act, June 2012) gender identity and gender expression were added to protected classes. It is therefore illegal to discriminate when it comes to:
Services, goods and facilities
Membership in a trade union
With respect to ‘facilities’ (a very broad term) Section 20.1 of the Human Rights Code provides restrictions with respect to same sex facilities. It states
20. (1) The right under section 1 to equal treatment with respect to services and facilities without discrimination because of sex is not infringed where the use of the services or facilities is restricted to persons of the same sex on the ground of public decency. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 20 (1).
All of the parents, and most of the staff are very concerned about this. Concern is for this specific situation and what they can expect in the future.
The parents seem very willing to accept the choice of to dress the child as a girl (whether it is the child’s or parents’ choice), but would like to see the needs of all the other parents and children respected as well. The alternative would be to have the child use the wheel chair single stall washroom.
P.E.A.C.E. Ontario is working with the parents to provide all of the legal information for the principal so that decisions can be made that address the needs of all those attending the school.