Cape Town - Questions and debates have arisen over a “boy wearing a dress” at a Cape school, and whether the pupil was abiding by the rules of the school.
All of the furore seems to stem from a social media group claiming to be parents and alumni of the Cape high school who were questioning if the pupil was adhering to the school rules.
This sparked a controversy across the city on whether it was time for pupils (regardless of gender) to be able to wear the school uniform of their choosing.
Triangle Project research, advocacy and policy manager Estian weighed in and said: “Boys should be allowed to wear a dress as part of their school uniform. Schools need to adopt dress codes that allow for gender-neutral uniforms and creative combinations of clothing items, which any learner should be able to wear regardless of their gender identity or sex. Not doing so, constitute human rights violation.”
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said there had previously been no guidelines or policies for schools to support transgender learners but some school governing bodies addressed this issue through their own diversity/inclusivity policies.
However, Hammond said the WCED was drafting Guidelines on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation in Public Schools to create an educational environment that is free from stigma and discrimination for all learners.
The final document was expected to be made available to schools later this year.
“Schools are encouraged to accommodate the dress code preferences of LGBTQIA+ learners in their respective codes of conduct and may introduce gender-neutral uniforms. The same rules which apply to girls may apply to boys and vice versa, where reasonable and practicable,” said Hammond.
Equal Education Researcher Stacey Jacobs said: “Dress codes developed by schools should not only be limited to gender-neutral uniforms but that they should allow for learners to select any combination of the clothes that form part of the school uniform.”
Jacobs advised that holding on to rigid and traditional processes that limited learners and ultimately had no impact on teaching and learning, was far more damaging to learners in the long term.
Equal Education Law Centre junior attorney Pila-sande Mkuzo said: “LGBTQIA+ learners are often subjected to bullying, discrimination, and violence by peers and educators. They have been excluded from curriculum and social activities because of repressive attitudes towards sexual and gender diversity.”
Mkuzo said the question one ought to ask was not whether it was time or appropriate but rather for how long schools would be permitted to violate the rights of LGBTQIA+ learners and whether or not school communities were late in starting to embrace the transformative ideals of the Constitution.