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The Responsibilities of Boards of Trustees

In the last few years, schools and teachers have found themselves in a gender minefield without the training or quality guidance they need on how to navigate through the demands being placed upon them by some very confused ideas about sex and gender.

Among other things they are being asked to:

  • teach gender identity beliefs as if they are facts

  • use the pronouns and names chosen by individual students

  • allow students who claim to be the opposite sex to use the toilets of that sex irrespective of any discomfort the other students may feel

  • keep a student’s social transition to another gender a secret from their parents. 

Why is this a problem for Boards of Trustees?

The stewardship role of Boards of trustees involves planning for, and acting in, the interests of the school and its community. Student learning, wellbeing, achievement, and progress are the board's main concern. (Ref Pg 2, ERO School Trustees Booklet 2017). 

Issues which affect student well-being affect their learning. The sudden rise in the numbers of students expressing gender identity beliefs - the idea that they can change their sex or be non-binary or have no sex at all - has serious implications for schools. When students assert that their feelings about their sex or gender are more important than their physical sexed bodies, and when school policies and practices support those beliefs, the well-being of everyone in the school is affected.  

The desires of some students should not be met at the expense of other students. School policies and practices need to be respectful of the whole school community and facilities need to meet the needs of all students.

In order to navigate the gender minefield, trustees and staff need to become fully informed about the concepts associated with gender identity theory and be aware that these concepts are heavily criticised by a wide range of international experts. This is a complex issue that has the potential for conflict in the community and even litigation against the school. 

In this video, Stella O'Malley, psychotherapist and Director of Genspect, provides an introduction to the issues for schools. Genspect advocates for a "cautious, gentle, compassionate and understanding approach."

Relationship and sexuality education

The Relationship and Sexuality Education Guide (RSE Guide) for NZ schools that was published in September 2020 not only accepts but actively promotes controversial gender identity beliefs as if they are fact.

Schools are entrusted to educate children about controversial topics by providing students with both sides of a debate presented neutrally and objectively. This trust is being undermined by the MOE’s policies for teaching children that they can choose their sex and that embracing body dysmorphia as part of a trans identity is an easy, joyful, and authentic response to unhappiness. No alternative viewpoint is presented.

Guidelines that recommend schools collude with students to keep their gender transition at school a secret from their parents are the ultimate betrayal of trust and are unprofessional in the extreme. 

Court cases have already been instigated overseas in relation to demands like those placed upon our teachers. Litigation has been brought by parents whose children have been socially transitioned at school without their consent; on behalf of girls who have been sexually assaulted in mixed-sex school facilities; and by teachers whose personal beliefs have been overridden by school policies that enforce gender ideology practices such as using preferred pronouns.  

The purpose of a school is not to provide a conduit for political or social ideologies. We recommend that Boards of Trustees remove gender politics from schools and focus on respecting the needs of all students and creating an environment of acceptance rather than one of exceptionalism. 

Concepts that everyone needs to fully understand:

  • What is gender identity theory? Why do some people say it is fact when it is really a belief?

  • What are the new definitions and language of gender theory and are they accurate?

  • What is gender dysphoria and what are the differing explanations for it?

  • Why are there suddenly so many students saying they are trans and what is the best evidence for how to support them?

  • What is gender affirmation and what are the implications for schools when they automatically affirm students in an adopted gender identity?

  • What is social transition and is it a harmful option for children with gender distress?

  • What is the new evidence that puberty blockers are powerful drugs that are being used experimentally to disrupt puberty? Why are mental health outcomes better when children are allowed to mature naturally?

  • What are the flow-on effects in a school when students claim they are the other sex or that they don’t have a sex?

  • Why are transgender rights not an extension of gay rights?

  • What are intersex conditions (DSD – differences in sex development) and what do they have to do with being transgender?

For answers to these and other questions go to

School Policies and practices

School policies need to be based not on ideology but on facts, reality, and evidence. Safety and fairness for all students should be paramount and any political or ideological positions should be avoided. 

  • Social transition (the adoption of names, pronouns, and clothing of the opposite sex). Social transition is a process that schools do not have the knowledge or expertise to oversee. It can prematurely cement a life-altering decision and make it hard for a student to retract. Unambiguous policies are needed to enable schools to manage any student or parental requests to affirm a child in a chosen identity. 

  • Uniforms. It is appropriate for uniforms and hairstyles to be fluid. If students want to wear a different uniform, they should be able to without it being a major statement. Allowing students to express themselves as they choose does not make them the opposite sex. 

  • Names. While peers and teachers may choose to use nicknames, legal names should be used for all formal documents. Only when there has been a documented legal change of name should formal school records be altered. 

  • Pronouns. The use of ‘preferred pronouns’ is an unworkable concept in schools. Many neurodiverse and learning-disabled students, or those with speech and language difficulties, or with English as a second language, find the concept very confusing and difficult. It is also discriminatory to those who do not adhere to gender identity beliefs. It is not the responsibility of children or teachers to provide opposite sex affirmation to students in their classes.

  • Toilets, changing rooms, and residential stays. Single-sex facilities at school and on residential stays are necessary for the safety and dignity of children of both sexes and should be protected. For the small number of children who find that challenging, separate single-occupancy facilities can be provided. No children should be asked to ignore their own need for privacy and dignity in order to validate another child’s self-perception.  

  • Sport. After puberty, for fairness and safety, all sports should be segregated by sex. Where it is safe, separate mixed-sex teams can be formed as optional extras.

  • Birth Certificates. From June 2023 it will be possible for parents to change the sex marker on their child’s birth certificate. Very serious safe-guarding issues are raised if this change is not disclosed to the school. If the correct sex of a child is not known, the possibilities are open-ended for accusations of, or actual, sexual assaults.

  • Keeping secrets provides a ripe environment for all sorts of bullying and emotional blackmail. If teachers do not know the actual sex of the children under their care, they cannot safely provide medical assistance, or plan for residential camps, or offer sex-specific advice. In order to implement the school's policies around gender that have been formed for the benefit of all, the biological sex of every student must be declared upon enrolment. 

Meaningful consultation

By law, schools are required to provide full consultation for parents on sexuality education every two years and to be guided by community input. As parents may want to withdraw their children from particular RSE lessons, the consultation needs to be full and transparent. 

For parents to make fully-informed decisions, schools need to consult with them in good faith.

  • There should be a consultation period of at least two months.

  • All materials to be used with their children (including worksheets, videos, and graphics) should be readily available for parental assessment, without them having to go into the school. No materials should be withheld for copyright reasons. 

  • The school should confirm that all teaching of RSE content will be in dedicated lessons, and that RSE will not be embedded throughout the curriculum as recommended by the MOEEmbedding the content thwarts the parents’ right to withdraw their children from some or all lessons.  

  • Education about sex, gender, and sexuality should be age appropriate. Schools and parents should reach a consensus about what topics will be covered at each level at school and which questions will be referred to parents for answering. 

Examples of good consultation practices, a body positive policy, and a policy about teachers answering questions are on the RGE website.

Some points for Principals and Boards to consider: 

  • What is the school’s definition of sex and gender identity? Is the school’s definition in keeping with the views of its community?  Is the school teaching scientific facts or ideological beliefs about human sexuality, or is it avoiding the subject altogether?

  • How does the school show respect to those who don’t believe in gender theory?  How will the school ensure that no-one is pressured to endorse a belief they do not hold?  

  • Does the school have robust policies around gender identity? What evidence has been used to support those policies? Is the school gender identity policy consistent with the way it treats other religious or political beliefs? 

  • What school policies might need to change, be added, or be removed so that children can be free to explore their identities in a neutral space that neither celebrates nor shames them?

  • How will the school manage requests to ‘affirm’ a student in beliefs that are not supported by scientific evidence and not held by the majority of families or staff?

  • How will the school meet the needs and safety of all students (and staff) in a way that ensures everyone’s values and beliefs are respected?

Schools are required to have an 'Inclusive Education' policy but there can be fishhooks in the nice-sounding words. Read our substack on the subject here.

We recommend this policy from a US school: "We believe in parental choice and that we are here to serve families. As we strive to build upon connections with our families, we leave the job of parenting to our parents. They are responsible for imparting morals and values taught in their homes including practiced political, religious, and social viewpoints. We trust that they know what is best for their student as the student grows and develops into an adult.”

Useful guidance for schools from Sex Matters, Transgender Trend, and Genspect:

Sex and Gender Identity

This February 2023 revised and updated guidance for UK schools was jointly produced by Sex Matters and Transgender Trend.

Brief Guidance for Schools Produced by Genspect, this guidance advises schools to develop a sex and gender policy and to take a "cautious, least-invasive-first approach" to gender issues.

Brief Guidance on Social Transition Also produced by Genspect, the guidance includes several cautions, including one against allowing students to dictate other people's use of pronouns, saying "it is not acceptable to act as though it is an act of hostility to use the biologically correct pronoun."

Saying no to school transition. In this article, UK MP Miriam Cates explains why new Education Department policy should ban schools from socially transitioning a child, even with parental consent. “Not only is a ban the right ethical solution, it is also the only way to protect head teachers from being forced to make high stakes decisions for which they are unqualified.”


Teachers normally keep their religious and political beliefs to themselves and the same should apply to any beliefs they have about gender identity. It is not possible for humans to change sex and children should not be confused by being taught anything else. We recommend Boards of Trustees remove gender politics from the classroom and ensure schools are not centres of gender activism and children are not being used as foot soldiers for an activist agenda. 

Gender identity activism is not a school’s purpose and teaching gender identity ideology by disguising it as fact is not education.

Further recommended reading:

The Transgender Children’s Crusade by Kay S Hymowitz 

Time to Think by Hannah Barnes (review)

Gender dysphoria is rising - and so is professional disagreement (British Medical Journal)


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