Well, boys and girls, the ‘gender wars’ of the federal election campaign has spread into schools with teachers in the Northern Territory, held by Labor Chief Minister Michael Gunner, to use gender neutral terms such as ‘class’ or ‘crew’.
‘Boys and girls’ has been in use for as long as humans have been teaching classes to children, but the Education Department claims that they wish to make the change so as not to ‘offend’ kids by questioning their gender.
The request comes from an early release of a document issued by the Department of Education which states:
‘Using gendered language such as ‘girls and boys’ or ‘ladies and gentlemen’ confirms stereotyping roles and can be alienating for gender-questioning and gender-diverse children. Avoid this by using vocabulary such as ‘students’, ‘class’, ‘crew’, ‘everyone’, ‘people’, or ‘year X’ that are more inclusive.’
Jacinta Price, Senate candidate for the Country Liberal Party and formally the Deputy Mayor of Alice Springs, spoke against the policy accusing the department of importing Marxist philosophy into schools.
“I’m stunned that the Gunner government would even consider attempting to apply any Marxist ideology into our school system here in the Northern Territory,” said Price. “To suggest that terms like ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ are gender stereotypes and can be offensive is utterly ridiculous. Is she [Moss] suggesting that the word ‘karnta’ for women in Warlpiri is offensive or a gender stereotype, and ‘wirriya’ for boys?”
Labor Education Minister for the Northern Territory Lauren Moss denied claims that the words ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ would be be banned, telling the press that the version of the document circulating was an early draft. Still, it is clear that at some point the department entertained the idea.
“This consultation paper referred to this morning was not in its final format. There will be no ban on the words ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ in schools,” said Moss. “We know that often these students are young people and children who experience greater levels of harm or greater levels of isolation or greater levels of bullying and we need to make sure that we are working together as a school community to support all of our students to make sure they all feel welcome.”
Some parents may argue that it is the Northern Territory Education Department, in this case, who are bullying, isolating, and harming young girls by forcing them to share their private spaces with boys. When directly questioned about what the school should do, for example, about sports races with Year 5 girls forced to run against boys, Moss replied, “So, what is means is that schools are being encouraged again to create all-inclusive events where they can.”
Yes. Year 5 girls could potentially find themselves facing off against Year 5 boys in sports carnivals – and losing to them.
In addition, schools have been told that they may wish to organise their sporting teams into ‘non-gendered’ groups in accordance with plans being made by the Northern Territory Department of Education.
‘Where possible, schools should organise non-gendered teams, physical education activities, and sports days.’
It comes at a time when parents are increasingly complaining about young girls losing to biological boys who identify as girls. Not only are girls losing out on the opportunity of fair competition, they are exposed to an increased risk of injury by players who are physically larger and stronger.
Non-gendered changes would include allowing children to use the showers, toilets, and sleeping arrangements of their self-identified gender rather than their biological gender – essentially meaning that all activities and previously gender-segregated spaces will be ‘co-ed’.
‘When considering school excursions including overnight stays, the teacher in charge of the excursion should consult with LGBTQI students, parents, and support teams to confirm preferences. Children should be able to access personal facilities such as toilets and showers and sleep in the same sleeping quarters as other children of their affirmed gender.’
Young girls, in particularly, have frequently expressed their unease with sharing bathrooms and sleeping facilities with boys – which is why they have always been separated by gender. Adolescence is a difficult and often embarrassing time for young women. In schools where girls are forced to share gender-neutral toilets, girls were reported skipping school due to feeling ashamed or unsafe. Others stopped drinking liquids or gave themselves urinary tract infections – all to avoid coming across a boy in their bathroom.
It appears that the Northern Territory Department of Education is not prepared to give girls or parents the opportunity to protest, warning that:
‘If a child, or their peers, do not agree that they would feel safe and comfortable sharing, seek alternative solutions and acknowledge that this is an indication of possible exclusionary behaviour and potential bullying toward the LGBTQI child.’
In other others, girls are told to ‘put up or shut up’ when it comes to boys in their bathrooms, showers, sports, and bedrooms.