NEW SCHOOL POLICY ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY

(UPDATE – NOVEMBER 2020) 

NEW SCHOOL POLICY ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY

In June 2020, Cause for Justice (“CFJ”) issued a press release concerning a new school policy that is setting the Western Cape government on a collision course with parents.

The Western Cape Education Department (“WCED”) contends that the purpose of its draft Guidelines on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Public Schools of the WCED (“the Guidelines”) is to prevent discrimination in schools. However, a closer inspection of its contents exposes several significant concerns – the most important and problematic are that the Guidelines:

  • Pose a real threat to the best interests of children;
  • Contain controversial ideological content;
  • Is likely to have a detrimental impact on parent-child relationships;
  • Allow for unfair discriminatory treatment; and
  • Constitute an unlawful intrusion into decision-making purview schools and the national executive.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS (SINCE JUNE 2020)

During October 2020, the WCED circulated a re-worked version of the Guidelines to persons (individuals and organisations) who previously had delivered substantive submissions, and also invited them to a virtual stakeholder meeting. Due to the short notice, none of our team was available to attend the general stakeholder meeting, and the WCED agreed to meet with us separately on a mutually suitable date.

Our diverse team of professionals and experts scrutinised the re-worked Guidelines, and prepared and delivered further written commentary to the WCED. With gratitude, we noted that the WCED incorporated some of our suggestions (included in our formal written commentary submitted in June 2020) in the new version.

We had an encouraging meeting with the WCED. Our team was able to air and discuss our concerns frankly and respectfully. We trust that the WCED will take our contribution and comments seriously.

CONVERSION THERAPY (DR DE VAAL MATTER)

An unfortunate and extremely disquieting development, is the unfounded complaints lodged against Dr Sybrand de Vaal with the Health Professions Council of South Africa and the University of Cape Town (UCT), after the general virtual stakeholder meeting held in October 2020 (in which he participated).

Dr De Vaal is a registered family physician who previously worked in private practice and addiction care. He recently completed four years of psychiatry training through UCT (but has yet to write the final psychiatry examinations – in January and May 2021 – required to register as a specialist psychiatrist). He has a special interest in gender and sexuality from a Christian point of view. While he does not currently work with children with gender dysphoria, he does read widely and is able to critically assess research on this topic.

During the stakeholder meeting, Dr De Vaal was fully transparent when he presented his credentials and was fully within his constitutional rights to speak at the meeting.

He presented a valid scientific argument questioning the efficacy of gender affirming therapies (a position that is valid and rational and should not be supressed because it conflicts with that of a particular pressure group). He did not promote any therapy that could be considered harmful (what he in fact did, was draw attention to the danger that uncritically accepting gender affirming therapies poses for vulnerable children). Neither has Dr De Vaal “adopted practises that would be a danger to his clients” (what he in fact did during the meeting, was to draw attention to the need for additional research into the role of psychotherapy to help resolve gender dysphoria).

Despite this, the baseless complaints against Dr De Vaal include that he misrepresented his experience and level of expertise; presented poorly informed clinical and research evidence; advocated for a framing of a version of reparative therapy or “conversion therapy”; suggested harmful therapeutic processes; is not following clinically and evidence informed practice; and has adopted practices that would be a danger to clients.

The lodging of these complaints should be of great concern to all who value academic freedom.

THE ROAD AHEAD (WHAT IS EXPECTED TO HAPPEN NEXT)

The WCED now needs to consider the further stakeholder comments and inputs it received. It will have to decide, considering the additional submissions and suggestions that were delivered, whether and how the current version of the Guidelines must be amended. The WCED may decide to hold further meetings with some (or all) stakeholders on certain aspects of the Guidelines.

Once this process is completed, and the Guidelines has gone through the WCED’s internal approval structures, the final version of the Guidelines will be published in the Provincial Gazette.

CAUSE FOR JUSTICE

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