WCED draft guidelines meant to protect LGBTQIA+ learners ‘dangerously flawed’
Cape Town - Equal Education (EE) and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) are concerned about the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) draft guidelines on gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools, saying they carried dangerous basic flaws.
The two groups claimed that the guidelines would not properly protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ learners and did not clearly state learners’ rights - the right to equality, dignity, privacy and basic education - and did not recognise that those rights were not negotiable.
EE co-head of research Roné McFarlane said instead, clauses in the document that address important issues such as access to bathrooms, dress code, school outings and accommodation, indicated that schools “may be, or are, encouraged or recommended” to support learners, which seem to depend mostly on the judgement of the school.
McFarlane said they wanted to emphasise the importance of a document that could provide schools with direction on being inclusive, but were worried that despite the previous detailed feedback submitted to the WCED, various drafts of those guidelines had not fixed the critical flaws.
“We are submitting a third round of feedback to the WCED today, which points out the problems and how the guidelines can be improved,” said McFarlane.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said they were aware of EE and EELC submissions as they had asked stakeholders engaged in the process to submit further comments to the WCED by Wednesday this week.
“We will study the contents of their submission, as well as those of stakeholders whom we have engaged with throughout this process.”
She said it was surprising that they (WCED) had been criticised in the media by EE on a “working document” in which they had engaged with them, and in which comments were submitted.
“While they may have concerns, these will be duly considered upon review. Obviously, there were many different viewpoints and we still need to make amendments accordingly,” said Hammond.
“This is a groundbreaking guideline - no other guideline or policy exists that addresses gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools in South Africa.”
EELC attorney Demichelle Petherbridge said while the language used in the policy had improved a little, it was unacceptable that the draft guidelines still contained language that was disempowering and vilified LGBTQIA+ learners.