My Department recognises that schools should be safe and supportive environments for all students. In order to support schools in developing a positive whole-school approach the Department has produced a range of guidance documents and has also supported the provision of guidance by civil society organisations. “Being LGBT in School – A Resource for Post-Primary Schools to Prevent Homophobic and Transphobic Bullying and Support LGBT Students”, which was developed by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) with the support of the Department, provides guidance in relation to supporting LGBT students in schools. The resource, which is available on the Department’s website, includes a section that addresses the specific support needs of students who identify as transgender. The non-governmental organisation, Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) provided advice and support to ensure that this information is both practical and respectful to the needs of young people who are transgender.
The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) Wellbeing Team have also developed a number of resources in the area of Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) in conjunction with representative groups. These resources, which are available at http://sphe.ie/resources.aspx, include guidance for teachers, schools and guidance counsellors on their role in supporting LGBT students. PDST also offer a specific 1 day Seminar on Gender and Sexual Orientation. This seminar is for teachers of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and RSE and explores the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people. Participants receive the ‘Growing Up LGBT’ resource and explore how to raise awareness through both the curriculum and at a whole school level.
In addition, inclusive education is a mandatory area of study in programmes of initial teacher education (ITE), The ITE graduate is required to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the factors that promote and hinder learning, the impact of pupils’ backgrounds and identities on learning and the need to provide for the holistic development of the learner, particularly through differentiated approaches.
At the Department level, civil servants are subject to the terms of the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour which outlines that officials should treat members of the public and their peer workers with dignity and respect. At section 12 of the Code it specifically addresses the matter of relationships with colleagues and states the nine grounds that Civil Servants have a legal duty to ensure that they do not discriminate on as stated in the Equality Act. At this section there is specific reference made that an official cannot discriminate on the basis of gender and this includes transgender. When the Code was published it was circulated to all staff and they were requested to sign an undertaking that they had read the document. All new appointees are presented with a copy of the Code and have to sign a similar undertaking. In addition to this Civil servants are obliged to support the Civil Service Policy on harassment, sexual harassment and bullying and a copy of the Dignity at Work Policy can be viewed on the Department’s intranet site.
Finally, my Department is represented on the group that has been established by the Minister of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to review the Gender Recognition Act 2015. The Group, which is chaired by Moninne Griffith, Executive Director of BeLonG To, met for the first time in December 2017.