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Parents still suing Vancouver School Board for trans policy

Letting trans students choose washroom doesn’t infringe others’ rights: VSB

Three parents who filed a lawsuit last fall against the Vancouver School Board (VSB) for its new policy on trans students still hope for their day in court.

The parents’ lawyer, Masao Morinaga, confirmed to Daily Xtra that he intends to carry on with the lawsuit. He says he is waiting on an exchange of documents with the school board before the case can see court.

The VSB’s sexual orientation and gender identities policy, amended in June 2014, allows students to use washrooms according to their chosen gender identity, and allows students who feel unsafe telling their families about their gender identity to request confidentiality from teachers and counsellors.

Three parents filed a petition to the BC Supreme Court claiming the policy would make their children uncomfortable, deny parents important knowledge about their children, and disrupt basic public morality.

The parents’ petition is one skirmish in an ongoing conflict between queer activists and a vocal, conservative segment of the Vancouver Chinese community. The three parents who brought the petition have declined to speak to the press, but their names, as well as the names on almost all of nearly 200 affidavits filed in their support, are identifiably Mandarin Chinese.

In response to the parents’ petition, the VSB says letting trans students choose which washroom to use does not take away anyone else’s rights.

“The petitioners lack standing to bring this petition as no legal right of the petitioners is implicated by the adoption of the policy,” says a brief from VSB trustees, filed with the court in December. “The adoption of the policy does not affect the right, privileges or interests of any of the Petitioners . . . The revised policy does not discriminate against non-trans* students.”

The brief also dismisses arguments based on city building codes and the school act, saying the petitioners misunderstood the laws.

The VSB brief is especially disparaging of the petition’s arguments about public morals: “The petitioners’ assertion that society ‘typically divides washroom and change room facilities based on sex’ and the assertion that ‘separate use of such facilities is founded on the general moral values of our society’ is not consistent with our current non-discriminatory practices and indeed would in fact be a discriminatory practice.”

The main argument from the VSB, however, comes down to personal choice. In response to a line in the parents’ petition that argues the government should not meddle with washrooms because their use comes down to “fundamental personal choices,” the VSB brief wryly replies, “that is consistent with the adoption of the Revised Policy.”

In other words, the brief suggests, the policy indeed comes down to personal choice and allowing trans students to use whichever washroom they choose.

The parents want the court to overturn the VSB policy and declare it unconstitutional, or at least return it to the board for further debate.