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Minister may bar use of preferred names, pronouns in school unless parents consent

Bill Hogan.

Education Minister Bill Hogan began the review of Policy 713 in April. He didn't say publicly exactly what sections would be reviewed until two weeks ago. This week, he's been meeting with parent groups and students as part of the process.

Photo: Radio-Canada


But Bill Hogan tells parent reps he has no plans to forcibly out children to possibly unaccepting parents

The Minister of Education has assured parents that he does not plan on making it mandatory to out children who want to use different names and pronouns in schools.

Bill Hogan said what he's actually considering is preventing teachers from using the child's preferred name and pronoun until a parent consents.

Hogan made the distinction at a meeting this week with parent school support committee chairs from all anglophone school districts, according to two committee chairs.

The meeting is part of a review he's undertaking of Policy 713, which outlines basic protections for LGBTQ students. The minister has said the review won't roll back any rights.

There are a lot of issues in washrooms, but gender isn't one of them​​​​​.- Carrie Tanasichuk, parent

Carrie Tanasichuk, committee chair at Saint Rose, an elementary school in Saint John, said the reaction to this proposal was mainly confusion, because it wasn't clear how that could be achieved.

This is the first time anybody had ever heard that, she said. There was definitely some followup questions and like, 'Well, what exactly does that mean?' And, like, 'What harms are caused by not using preferred pronouns?'

Tanasichuk said she didn't hear any clear answers to those questions.

One or two people expressed agreement that they should be able to find out if their children go by a different name, she said, with one saying it's inevitable in small towns.

Results of the review are expected within the next six days.

The department has said Hogan won't be commenting until the review is done.

What does the policy actually say right now?

One of the sections under review says teachers must respect the chosen names and pronouns of students and use them in the classroom.

For children under 16, a principal must get parental consent before changing the child's name on report cards and other official documents. The section says before getting that consent, the principal must make sure the child knows the parents will be involved and agrees to it.

If the child declines to include the parents, the policy says, staff would create a plan to continue to use the child's chosen name and pronoun informally, and the name on report cards would remain as it had been.

Hogan and Premier Blaine Higgs have said this part of the policy amounts to keeping secrets from parents, and it takes away parents' right to know what name their child is going by. 

The minister decided to start the review on April 21. He didn't publicly say exactly what sections would be reviewed until two weeks ago. This week, he's been meeting with parent groups and students (new window) as part of the process. 

The New Brunswick Teachers' Association previously said they have not been consulted on the review. The association confirmed Thursday that this is still the case.

The other two sections under review affirm students' rights to participate in extracurricular activities, including sports, and use the washrooms that align with their gender identity.

Advocates have said some children would be shunned or abused at home if the parents find out they're exploring their gender identity. Up to 40 per cent of the homeless youth population identify as LGBTQ in North America, according to the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health.

Gail Costello of Pride in Education said even if parents are understanding, the child should have control of when to tell them, because it's a personal journey and every child is different. 

Tanasichuk said the majority of people who spoke up at the meeting said it's important to accept students' choices of names and pronouns. She said people also agreed that students should be consulted and their choices respected if they don't feel safe disclosing their gender expression to their parents.

My question was more, 'Who thought this up?' Like, maybe we should be asking people that have subject-matter expertise and lived experience to come up with policy, she said.

Discourse on washrooms

Hogan previously told CBC News the washroom section is being reviewed to ensure the comfort of non-trans girls sharing the washroom with a biological male. 

The right of people to use the washroom of their choice, regardless of anatomy, has been protected by the federal and provincial Human Rights Acts since 2017.

Colin Curry, committee chair at Liverpool Street Elementary School in Fredericton, said people at the meeting shared concerns about washrooms, especially in higher grades, because of vandalism and drugs. He said parents asked for more resources to make washrooms more private and to have more single-stall universal facilities.

Tanasichuk said no one expressed concern for their kids' safety because of trans kids.

There's a lot of issues in washrooms but gender isn't one of them, she said. There's smoking, there's vandalism, there's violence.

Curry said there was some discussion about Muslim girls' inability to adjust their hijabs in the washroom if the sex of the people in the room is not known.

He said some people suggested that more private washrooms would solve this problem without limiting anyone's ability to choose a gendered washroom if they wish to.

Costello, who taught for 30 years before retiring, said teachers wouldn't be comfortable enforcing any gender-specific washroom rules.

Teachers don't want to be the gender police, Costello said.

Hadeel Ibrahim (new window) · CBC News