When gender identity education and theory goes wrong
A family is asking a school board to ensure that lessons do ‘not devalue, deny, or undermine … the female gender identity’
In his recent commentary in these pages on the risks associated with the teaching of gender theories to elementary schoolchildren, Jordan Peterson referenced a column I wrote in another publication. The column concerned a human rights complaint, filed by Pamela and Jason Buffone on behalf of their daughter, “N,” against the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board for discrimination on the basis of gender and gender identity in contravention of the Human Rights Code.
Peterson faithfully summarized the story that led to the complaint, but readers may be interested in a few points about the complaint and the response from the school board’s lawyer that Peterson omitted as not directly salient to the thrust of his thesis.
To recap briefly: the Buffones’ daughter N, six years old, and by their account a happy girl (comfortable in her skin, adored school), was abruptly plunged into considerable distress when informed by her teacher (young, three years experience) during a session on gender identity that gender is fluid and untethered to biology, and that “girls are not real” and “boys are not real.”
The lessons continued and so did N’s distress
The lessons continued and so did N’s distress, to the point of asking to see a doctor about her fears. The Buffones say in their claim that “they were concerned about the impact (on) N’s view of herself as a girl. Prior to (the teacher’s) discussions with the Grade One class, N had consistently identified as a girl and had not previously expressed uncertainty or discontent with her gender identity and biological sex.” The Buffones had asked the teacher to affirm N’s identity as a girl — that is, reassure her that her identity as female was “real” in order to relieve her anxiety. Nothing that the Buffones asserted was denied by the school or its officials, but their request was rebuffed out of hand, first by the teacher, who said her lessons reflected “a change within society,” then by the principal, and all the way up the ladder to the superintendent of the school board and the curriculum superintendent. They removed N to another school, where these gender theories are not taught, and where her mother told me she has recovered her wonted buoyancy.
In their Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario claim, the Buffones request as a remedy that the tribunal order the school board to ensure that classroom instruction does “not devalue, deny, or undermine in any way the female gender identity,” and that parents be informed “when lessons on gender identity will take place, including the teaching objectives and the materials that will be or have been used for such lessons.”
The response of the school board’s lawyers, who asked for dismissal of the complaint, state the claim has no reasonable basis for success. The lawyers note that teachers’ right to teach gender identity is endorsed by the minister of education, and that the “age-appropriateness of a classroom discussion does not engage a Code-protected prohibited ground.” That is to say, even if N was adversely affected by the teacher’s lessons — and they do not deny that this is the case — she has no grounds for redress according to the Human Rights Code.
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