The Labour Government is quietly progressing changes to require all school Boards of Trustees to consider the gender (gender identity), sexuality, and sex of children and communities when co-opting or appointing board members. Make your voice heard by making a submission to oppose this change. Submissions close 1 May.
You can read the complete Speak Up for Women submission here.
If you wish to support our submission then please do your own submission and simply state that you wish to support the submission presented by Speak Up for Women
The Education and Workforce Select Committee is currently considering the Education and Training Amendment Bill (No. 3) which proposes a range of changes to the current Education and Training Act 2020.
One of the changes will require the Boards of Trustees of all state and state-integrated schools to ensure that when selecting co-opted and appointed board members that "as far as is reasonably practicable, the board reflects the genders, sexualities, and sexes of the student body of the school and within the community served by the school". Note that the word ‘gender’ is not being used as a synonym of biological sex. As with the Census 2023, the word ‘gender’ is being used to mean ‘gender identity’.
This change has been kept very quiet by both the Minister of Education, Hon Jan Tinetti, and the Ministry of Education. Press releases and various communications about the Bill do not mention this change.
In addition, the public consultation for the Bill is only open for four weeks, most of which is over the school holidays. This severely limits the opportunity for Boards and Board members to find out about the changes and make submissions on them.
This requirement does not apply to elected board members. However, every election approximately 40% of schools do not receive enough nominations to require an election to be held. In 2019, 1118 schools (out of approximately 2,500) did not receive enough nominations to hold an election. As such, this change could impact a significant number of school boards.
Speak Up for Women has a range of concerns about the Bill. These include:
o The length and timing of the submission period, denying many Boards and Board members the ability to consider the changes and submit;
o The continued creep of gender ideology into New Zealand law without adequate consideration;
o Age appropriateness, especially for primary and intermediate schools (children aged 5-13) of making assumptions about children’s gender identities and sexualities;
o Practicality – how are Boards intended to ascertain the genders and sexualities with their community without making harmful assumptions or asking people to disclose sensitive personal information; and
o Privacy – including how Boards can be expected to collect and protect this sensitive information and for what purposes it can be accessed and used.
We encourage everyone, especially parents and Board members, to make a submission to the Select Committee. Submissions close at 11.59pm, Monday, 1 May and can be made online.
Currently the Education and Training Act 2020 requires that school boards should so far as is reasonably practical reflect (among other things), the fact that approximately half the population of New Zealand is male and half female and that boards when appointing or co-opting a board member should have regard to this.
This is a statement of fact in relation to sex. Approximately half the population is male and half is female. Even the very small number of people born with differences of sexual development (DSDs – also known as intersex conditions) are all male or female.
The Education and Training Amendment Bill (No.3) proposes to replace this clause with “the genders, sexualities, and sexes of the student body of the school and within the community served by the school.” There is almost no information as to why this change is recommended other than vague references to “modernising” language to “better reflect school communities.”
Except the language change doesn’t do this. The current language reflects school communities (everyone is either male or female, whether they choose to identify that way or not) in addition, another existing clause provides for a board to consider “the character of the community (whether geographical or otherwise) served by the school or schools it administers”. These provisions already provide Boards with the ability to fully consider the diversity of their community.
The presumption in law that all young children have gender identities and sexualities is also concerning and not age appropriate. Many people object to being told that they must adopt a gender identity, or that their children must do so, and the proposed amendment does not take this into account. Moreover, young children do not experience sexual attraction and thus do not yet have a sexual orientation
Submission period and timing denies almost all Boards and Board members the opportunity to submit
Select Committee submissions opened on Thursday, 30 March and close on Monday, 1 May. Most school boards only meet twice per term. In almost all instances submissions opened after the last Board meeting of Term One and close before the first meeting of Term Two. The proposed change was also not included in any communications released about the Bill by either Ministers or the Ministry of Education. It is hard not to draw the conclusion that the timing and length of the consultation period has been deliberately designed to deny Boards and Board members the ability to submit on the Bill.
It is, on the face of it, a Clayton’s consultation with the Labour Government already having a predetermined outcome, in the same way that the submissions on the self-sex identification changes in 2021 were undertaken in haste and while most of the country was in a COVID-19 lockdown.
However, this is an election year and if enough of us make ourselves heard they may reconsider.
In discussion with some current and former Board of Trustees members, the overwhelming view is that the change is utterly impractical and reflects a Wellington “bubble” that is obsessed with identity politics and ignore the realities of governing a school. People shared significant concerns that the change would require boards to stereotype or stigmatise people or ask them for highly sensitive information that they may not feel comfortable sharing. For example:
o Assuming that people in a heterosexual relationship are both straight, when one or both people may be bisexual; or
o Assuming that someone who does not conform to sexist stereotypes are non-binary or transgender when they may simply be a woman with short hair or a man who likes pink; or
o Assuming that a single parent is straight when they may be gay, lesbian, or bisexual or;
o Causing significant anxiety or offence by asking people to answer questions about their gender identity or sexuality for the purpose of helping to inform a co-option or appointment process when that information was highly sensitive for that person; or
o Having the only people putting themselves forward for co-option or appointment on the basis of their gender or sexuality not really being interested in governing the whole school for the good of all students, but only pursuing a particular agenda.
They also feared they risked opening themselves up to accusations of discrimination if, for example, they approached someone to be co-opted or appointed thinking they were a member of the rainbow community and upon finding out that they were not did not proceed with the co-option or appointment.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is the only government agency to write more than one sentence about this change. The Office has advised:
This type of information about an individual can be highly sensitive. The Ministry will need to consider whether this change to more collection of sensitive, personal information and how any collection will comply with the Privacy Act – how this information can be kept safe and that the information is only retained for a reasonable period of time.
We have not been able to find any advice or analysis by the Ministry of Education about how this information would, or should, be collected, managed, retained, and protected by school boards.
Making a submission
Making a submission to the Select Committee is easy and can be completed in 5-10 minutes. It can be as short as a paragraph or as long as you like. It needs to clearly state your position on the proposed change and rationale for that position. If you are a current or former board member it is important to say so, while noting this is a personal submission (unless your Board has agreed to make a submission as a Board). You can choose to make a written submission only or request to speak to the Committee about your submission.
There is a guide to making a submission here.
Submissions close at 11.59pm, Monday, 1 May and can be made online (click here) using the submission form. You can email email@example.com if you have any questions about the process.