A teacher who taught the ‘gender fluidity’ lesson was cleared by the rights court

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This could be the first court ruling in Canada on the appropriateness of teaching elementary-aged children about gender identity

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When a first grade teacher at an Ottawa elementary school told her class about gender fluidity and there were no boys and girls, Pam Buffone’s daughter was left confused and unstable , said the mother.

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She and her husband eventually filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, alleging the school discriminated against the six-year-old girl because of her gender and identity. of gender.

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But a court arbitrator has just ruled that the Ottawa public school board did not violate the girl’s rights with its gender-themed teaching, saying there was no direct evidence that she had been injured by the equipment.

This is perhaps the first court ruling in Canada on what has become – at least in the United States – a burning issue: the appropriateness of teaching gender identity to elementary-aged children.

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Referee Eva Nichols focused her decision on whether the girl had been discriminated against. But she also said the changes parents want in schools would run counter to the provincial Human Rights Code, Human Rights Commission policies and court case law.

“Clearly what the (girl’s) parents were seeking was not clarification or correction for their daughter, but systemic changes to school board policy and an education system that they believe should not allow concepts such as “gender fluidity” to be discussed in the classroom.”

Her daughter’s case prompted Buffone to challenge the way the education and health care systems deal with transgender issues more generally, primarily through the website Gender Report Canada.

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She says the court’s decision left her bitterly disappointed.

“A girl can go to school knowing she’s a girl and come home not knowing who she is because schools meddle with children’s identities completely ignoring biological reality as a personal characteristic. relevant and important – now with the full support of the (court),” she said via email.

The Buffones’ lawyer said she was also disappointed with the decision, but not surprised.

“Quite frankly, there is an irreconcilable clash of worldviews in our society right now, and that is reflected in this decision,” she said in a statement.

“Respecting the inherent human dignity of people of diverse gender identities, through inclusion and acceptance, is a very different goal than instilling in all children the idea that their gender is a fiction. or that they must have a gender identity.”

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But the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board noted in an email Tuesday that the court essentially found the board’s current policies to be consistent with the human rights code.

“The decision affirms the importance of fostering learning environments for students of all ages that are inclusive and representative of all gender identities.”

The row dates back to early 2018, when Buffone’s daughter mentioned that her teacher told the class there were no girls and boys. The girl later said she would only own a dog and not be a mum when she grew up, and asked about doctors changing someone’s gender identity, Buffone says.

The teacher, who was not named in the decision to protect the girl’s identity, confirmed that she made the comment that there was no difference between boys and girls, but said she realized that was not accurate and later apologized to the class about the statement. Instead, she drew a gender spectrum, with boys at one end, girls at the other, and marks in between.

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She testified that the topic came up in response to a class member’s teasing, which she considered a “teachable moment” about gender identity. The teacher read My Princess Boy to the children, a book about a boy who wears tiaras and “girly dresses” but is loved and supported by his family.

She also showed a video on gender pronouns – “He, she and them”. In response to a question from a student, she confirmed that doctors can alter people’s bodies to conform to a sex different from their birth sex.

Buffone and her husband argued that the courts essentially devalued their daughter’s identity as a girl, despite a long history of women fighting for equal treatment.

The girl, now 11 and referred to in the ruling only as NB, did not testify at the human rights tribunal hearing, and Nichols said the parents never provided direct evidence – such as from a psychologist – that she had indeed been hurt by the class discussion.

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Rather, they seemed more concerned about systemic issues with gender identity education in schools, the umpire said.

“NB has in no way been singled out” by the teachers’ statement that men and women are the same, Nichols also said. “The declaration does not distinguish between boys and girls and, therefore, does not entail the erasure of one group as opposed to another, as the (Buffones) claim.”

In the United States, how schools deal with gender identity has been hotly debated lately, with many Republican politicians seizing on it as a key issue. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed into law a bill banning discussing gender identity or sexual orientation until 3rd grade.

The issue has received less attention in Canada, but Buffone is not the only parent to voice concerns. Some have told the National Post of schools acknowledging name and pronoun changes for their underage children without informing parents, or of large groups of students in the same class coming out as transgender.

But medical professionals who treat young people with gender dysphoria – the feeling of not belonging to one’s birth sex – say that affirming and supporting these feelings at school and elsewhere is essential to their health. mental health and their well-being.

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