Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) government has reversed its decision to introduce gender-neutral language in schools after being criticized for “attempting to apply Marxist ideology” into the education system.
According to draft guidelines on diverse sex, sexuality, and gender identity pushed by the NT Education Department, teachers could have been banned from calling students “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen,” perceived as confirming “gender stereotyping,” which can be “alienating for gender questioning and gender diverse children.”
The leaked document, published by Sky News on April 19, suggested that teachers could use “vocabulary such as ‘students,’ ‘class,’ ‘crew,’ ‘everyone,’ ‘people’ or ‘year X’ that are more inclusive.”
Under the plan, schools would be asked not to separate children based on their gender for sports events and be “flexible with regard to clothing type and participation.”
The measure would also ensure students attending school camps could access the toilets, showers, and sleeping quarters of their “affirmed gender”—which refers to the gender they choose for themselves.
“When considering school excursions including overnight stays, the teacher in charge of the excursion should consult with LGBTQI students, parents, and support teams to confirm preferences.”
The guidelines further warned that concerns from other children could be considered a form of bullying.
“If a child, or their peers, do not agree that they would feel safe and comfortable sharing, seek alternative solutions and acknowledge that this is an indication of possible exclusionary behavior and potential bullying toward the LGBTQI child.”
However, NT’s Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison on April 20 announced that the government will “not be banning the use of the word boys and girls in schools—absolutely not.”
“We will not be stopping having girls races or boys races or girls sports teams or boys sports teams. That is not what is going to happen.”
The reversal comes after Country Liberal Party Senate candidate and former deputy mayor of Alice Springs Jacinta Price denounced the guidelines as political correctness gone mad.
“I’m stunned that the Gunner Government would even consider attempting to apply any Marxist ideology into our schooling system here in the Northern Territory,” she told Sky News on April 18.
Given the appalling rates of school attendance in remote communities, “it goes to show that the Northern Territory Government’s priorities are all mixed up,” Price said.
“You don’t lift a minority group of people by diminishing and forcing the majority to conform—this is not equality or education,” she wrote on Facebook the same day.
While the document was still subject to a review process, it had been endorsed by NT Education Minister Lauren Moss, who described the guidelines as an important move to create “inclusive environments for all students.”
“We know that often these students are young people and children who experience greater levels of harm or greater levels of isolation or greater levels of bullying, and we need to make sure that we are working together as a school community to support all of our students and make sure that they all feel welcome,” she said on April 19, according to Sky News.