Media release

New gender identity policy guide for NZ schools suggests 'watchful waiting' as the most caring approach

A new policy guide for NZ schools titled ‘Students and Social Transition: A gender identity policy guide’ has been emailed to schools across the country today.

The guide was created by Ethos, a charity that supports people with questions about freedom of conscience and belief.

CEO Alex Penk, who is experienced in law and policy, says since Ethos was established last year, they’ve been contacted by a number of parents and schools with questions about the best way to help children experiencing gender identity questions.

“That led us to create a policy guide to inform schools and parents about their options under the law when caring for children who are asking about social transition,” says Penk.

“We were also concerned that immediate affirmation is promoted in guidelines and resources offered to all schools when there’s mounting international concern and evidence against this approach. Studies show social transition is an active intervention that might cause gender questioning to persist and this can even lead to medical interventions like puberty blockers, and gender reassignment surgery later in life.

“We think it’s important schools know ‘watchful waiting’ is a legitimate and legal policy to care for their students and keep them safe, and that more considered and developmentally-informed approaches like this are now best practice in countries like Sweden, Finland and England.

“Our policy guide has been reviewed by senior medical and legal experts, including a King’s Counsel, and we are confident it is accurate and robust and will lead to better long-term health outcomes for children.”

Emeritus professor Charlotte Paul of Otago University says, “The policy advice produced by Ethos shows schools how they can follow a respectful and watchful waiting approach to children with gender related distress or gender incongruence.  This allows them to take a cautious approach to social transition, fitting with the findings of the Cass Review.” Professor Paul is a medical epidemiologist with a research background in sexual and reproductive health, the safety of medicines, and in the methods and ethics of research.  

Dr Melissa Derby, senior lecturer in education at the University of Waikato, says, “Ethos’ policy guide is an empowering tool that suggests schools take a ‘watchful waiting’ approach to children grappling with their gender identity. It encourages schools to place children at the centre of their policies and practices regarding social transition, ensuring in the process that schools uphold their duty to protect the safety and wellbeing of all children.”

Penk says he’s happy to talk with any school wanting to learn more.


Read "Students and Social Transition"
Alex Penk
June 10, 2024
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