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Activists issue plea for inclusivity over ‘boy who wears a dress to high school’

Published Feb 7, 2022


CAPE TOWN - The LGBTQI+ community has called for more inclusivity in schools following mixed reactions over a ’boy who wears a dress to school’ at a Cape Town school.

A social media group purporting to be parents and alumni of DF Malan High School in Bellville recently questioned whether the pupil was abiding by the rules of the school.

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Sharon Cox, health and support services manager at the Triangle Project, said a school uniform shouldn’t deprive a pupil of his or her right to education.

“When speaking about school rules and identity, one needs to consider that it is a person's right to self-determination, and that is a basic human right.

“How the learner identifies in terms of their gender identity or expression is not the business of others to comment on,” she said.

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The social media group called on concerned parents to share their views on the matter.

They stated: “As most of you are aware now, there is a boy at school going to school in a dress. One can randomly wonder if this is an opportunity for the governing body to further implement their strategy of inclusion, especially now that the school has already admitted to guilt and apologised for it being apparently a homophobic institution, or at least guilty of homophobia.

“Given the events, we would like to record that we do not condemn anyone, but do judge actions in the context of the rules of the school and the duty of the school board to apply them. The school has clear rules on schoolwear for boys and girls.”

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The school’s governing body said the school had no connection to the social media group.

“We are aware of the learner, and the school is dealing with the matter with the necessary guidance and support from the Western Cape Education Department to ensure we act in the best interests of the school's learners.

“The Facebook posting was a private posting, and the school strongly distances itself from the post. We need to remember that we are dealing with minors and will therefore never engage in the media or on social media in a way so as to infringe on the rights of such minors and their families.

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“The school has a policy in place which is in line with section 9 of the Constitution of South Africa. We don’t tolerate and reject all forms of discrimination,” the school said.

The school did not want to comment further, citing safety concerns for the pupil in question.

Western Cape Education Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the department respected the rights of all, including those of members of the LGBTQI+ community.

“The (Western Cape Education Department) is currently engaging with the school in terms of the processes to follow with regard to this specific case and is supporting the process.

“As a department, we need to assist all schools in creating a more inclusive environment for all learners, regardless of gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation,” she said.

Sonke Gender Justice co-executive director Bafana Khumalo said there was no reason to deny a pupil from wearing what he or she felt comfortable wearing if the outfit conformed to the agreed colours of the school.

“I do not see how this would violate the school code if it conforms with the colours. There is a constitutional principle of freedom of expression which underpins this (issue),” said Khumalo.

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