The Accommodation of Transgender and Gender-nonconforming Students in School

  • March 17, 2020
  • Fabienne Lajoie, lawyer, Emond Harnden LLP

A growing number of transgender and gender-nonconforming students are going public about their gender identity at a young age making the issue of their accommodation into the school system emergent and complex.

Considerable research indicates that children who have nonconforming gender identities and expressions are common targets of bullying and harassment at school. For instance, a 2011 study conducted by Egale Canada Human Rights Trust found that approximately one third of transgender students reported being physically harassed or assaulted at school.

Since the social and emotional well-being of students plays a significant role in their academic success, school officials are increasingly involved in the removal of systemic barriers in the educational system. They are crafting policies and guidelines, focused on inclusion and safety, to build a supportive environment that enables transgender and gender-nonconforming students to fully integrate, participate and succeed in school.

The use of washrooms or locker rooms remains challenging in some respects because society typically divides these facilities based on sex, as they are linked with the notions of privacy and identity. However, in alignment with the Ministry of Education’s Equity Plan, here are some of the emerging practices on the use of washrooms and locker rooms that are currently being developed by some school boards and that provide practical guidance moving forward.