New Brunswick

School form asks students' identified gender

Some parents in the Anglophone East School District were surprised to find a new question on the student data collection form this year, “Identified Gender” with three answers to choose from, female, gender independent, or male.

Some Anglophone East District Schools information forms offer choice of female, gender independent, or male

Some parents in the Anglophone East School District were surprised to find a new question on the student data collection form this year: "Identified Gender" with three answers to choose from, female, gender independent or male.

Cary Beaumont, a mother of three, says she finds the change refreshing.

"There was a new section that I was really thrilled to see, where they ask first their birth gender and then ask what their identified gender was," Beaumont said.

"I think it's fantastic, to be honest. I already have a disabled child and I just think the more inclusive we can be, in all the different ways that we come, the better."

The Department of Education says the question is being added in different school districts as each one moves to a new data input system. It says the question was included on the Anglophone West School District's form last year.

"We have a mandate around our policies to create safe welcoming learning environments for students as well as a mandate to be inclusive, it kind of comes from there," said Tammy Strong, the co-ordinator of diversity and respect with the Department of Education.

"I think the door was certainly open, families have certainly approached schools, districts and us. We're certainly responding to ... a need that exists."

Mike BeLong's experiences as principal at Moncton High prove that to be true.

"We have a couple of students this year," he said.

"What's interesting is that we've evolved with it, because in the past I'm sure we've had [transgender students] but they haven't been as prevalent, or vocal about it."

BeLong credits a spotlight on transgender people in the media with allowing more students to come forward with how they feel.

In his 17 years as a school administrator, he says learning how to help transgender students is a new skill set, one he's still working on.

"That's why I count on the expertise of my guidance people," he said.

He said making sure all students get enough support to succeed is an ongoing conversation at his school.

"It's not just a matter of putting supports in for [transgender students], but to communicate to [all] students because they're going to be wondering, 'what's this all about?' and so on. And we're just trying to do it in a way that's not judging," said BeLong.

"We wouldn't want kids to feel like they don't belong or feel like they can't come to school because they're different — we don't want that."

Moncton High is working to get new signs for two gender neutral washrooms the school has made available to students who would like to use them.

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