The Christian school, which the girl’s parents have chosen not to name, has been accused of disrespecting her transgender orientation and even attempting to convert her through “conversion therapy” sessions without the parents’ knowledge.
The girl’s parents, Olivia* and Ryan*, said the school refused to let Safe Schools Coalition Victoria visit and explain to staff and students how to understand and support the transition of their daughter, Charlotte*.
Olivia said the problem started when her daughter’s peers called her by her preferred name ‘Charlotte’ instead of her boy name, adding this upset some teachers at the school.
“Charlotte got really confident because all of the kids at school were calling her ‘Charlotte’ instead of her boy name and the teachers didn’t really like it,” Olivia told News.com.au.
According to Olivia, one teacher started harassing her daughter about the length of her hair, stating: “Boys are not allowed to have their hair up.” On another occasion, Olivia claims, girls and boys were separated for different activities.
Charlotte wished to stay with the girls and not the boys, Olivia said. However, the teacher, who was not her regular teacher, allegedly grabbed her by the arms and dragged her to the side of the room where the boys were standing.
“Charlotte got really upset and she said to the teacher: ‘You don’t understand’.
The teacher “then screamed at her in her face, ‘No, I do understand and I do not care. You are going with the boys and that is it’,” Olivia said.
The teacher issued an apology for the incident but the school’s principal denied the incident took place.
“At no point was Charlotte grabbed and screamed at by a teacher,” the principal wrote in a letter to News.com.au.
“The incident this allegation refers to was investigated by me personally and I subsequently wrote to the parents.”
Olivia and Ryan also claim Charlotte was sent to numerous “highly unethical” counselling sessions with the school chaplain without their knowledge.
“We were concerned about it being conversion therapy … because we were unsure what was discussed,” Olivia said.
Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, is a discredited form of treatment that erroneously claims to change a person’s sexual orientation. It is known to be psychologically harmful.
“The school says to me the sessions weren’t about transgender. Charlotte says to me they only discussed transgender issues,” Olivia said, adding the sessions were deliberately kept secret.
The principal has denied the allegations.
The school “does not believe in, let alone practice, conversion therapy in any form,” he wrote.
“From the very beginning we sought to do the right thing by Charlotte, not despite being a Christian school, but because we are a Christian School in which love and grace are some of our core values.
“As a result of this being the first time that the school had experienced a student transitioning, we sought immediate medical and legal advice to ensure we progressed with our support of Charlotte’s transition in a thoughtful and sensitive manner.”
A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education told The Educator that the rights of all students, including those who identify as being transgender, are supported by a number of resources.
“The Department of Education is committed to providing safe and supportive learning environments that respect and value diversity and are free from violence, discrimination, harassment and vilification,” the spokesman said.
“Research shows the supportive environment schools provide can have a lasting impact on both the educational and lifelong outcomes for students.
“All students, including those who identify as transgender have a right to be treated equitably and with dignity.
“The Department has a number of resources that support these rights. These resources promote a proactive approach to the development of positive school environments in which every student is respected and valued.”
*Names have been changed