June 8, 2023
Madeleine Nickerson, Jennifer Richard, and Beth Lyons
The majority of revisions to Policy 713 are profoundly concerning. These changes unequivocally roll back options and protections for trans students in the school system. Staff in the education system will be at increased risk of moral injury due to this policy. It is also concerning that the policy that was initially released this morning contained two substantive errors according to Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Bill Hogan. We note that the updated version of the revised policy addressed only one of those errors.
We are concerned about the following policy changes:
- The addition of “who is 16 and over” to section 6.3.1 as well the change of “If it is not possible to obtain parental consent for the use of the preferred first name, a plan will be put in place to support the student in managing the use of the preferred name in the learning environment” to “If it is not possible to obtain consent to talk to the parent, the student will be directed to the appropriate professional (i.e. school social worker, school psychologist) to work with them in the development of a plan to speak with their parents when they are ready to do so. If it is not in the best interest of the child or could cause harm to the student (physical or mental threat), the student will be directed to the appropriate school professional for support” in 6.3.2. Given these revisions and the explanatory comments from Minister Hogan this morning, it is our understanding that the policy requires school personnel to misgender and deadname trans students under the age of 16 unless directed otherwise by their parents.
- The change from an explicit requirement for students’ consent to be obtained before parents are contacted about a student’s gender identity (“Before contacting a parent, the principal must have the informed consent from the student to discuss their preferred name with the parent”) to an implied requirement (“If it is not possible to obtain consent to talk to the parent...”) in 6.3.2.
- The removal of “and consistent with their gender identity” from 6.1.5, which addresses curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities. While Minister Hogan indicated that this removal was done in error, we note that the updated version of the revised policy still omits it.
We invite Members of the Legislative Assembly and the public to read our most recent brief for information on how school-based protections for 2SLGBTQIA+ students, like the ones being rolled back by these revisions, are a public health strategy to reduce suicide risk among 2SLGBTQIA+ children and youth as well as mental health risks for all those who would be negatively affected by these tragic losses.
The harm that has been caused by government’s handling of this review, from its execution through to the release of the revised policy this morning, cannot be overstated. This includes harm to 2SLGBTQIA+ students and the broader 2SLGBTQIA+ community. It also includes harm to people’s trust in government’s capacity to consult in a comprehensive and fulsome way; to address issues that impact vulnerable and marginalized communities with care and rigour; to release policies that are finalized and accurately reflect government’s intentions; to engage in evidence-based policy development; and to adhere to accepted broader policy frameworks, such as the concept of the best interest of the child.
Finally, we reiterate our concern that whether government realizes it or not, many of the issues it has raised about Policy 713 echo the claims and arguments of those organizing far-right anti-2SLGTBQIA+ activities.
The New Brunswick Women’s Council is an independent public advisory body on women’s equality issues.