College of Psychologists Statement Re: Revisions to Policy 713
The Professional Affairs Committee of the College of Psychologists of New Brunswick stands in opposition of the revisions to Policy 713. We stand in solidarity with countless organizations across our province and country, including, but not limited to, Pride in Education, the New Brunswick Association of School Psychologists (NBASP), the New Brunswick Teachers Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Chroma NB, Alter Acadie, the New Brunswick Women’s Council, the Child and Youth Advocate, and the New Brunswick Transgender Health Network. We are greatly concerned with the lack of consultation around this review, and, most importantly, the ramifications of this policy to cause harm to 2SLGBTQIA+ children and youth. We urge the Government of New Brunswick, specifically the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, to rescind these changes.
2SLGBTQIA+ people, especially transgender and gender-diverse children and youth, are at increased risk of being subjected to violence, homelessness, mental health issues, and, most gravely, suicide. A major protective factor in mitigating and reducing this risk is the affirmation of 2SLGBTQIA+ identities, with one of the most important factors being having an individual’s name and pronouns respected and used. Policy 713 set the minimum standards to providing safe, affirming, and inclusive schools, including the unquestioning support of students’ names and pronouns. While we recognize the important role parents play in the lives of their children, we are concerned that the revisions to Policy 713 will lead to children being “outed” to their families before they are able to do so safely, which runs counterintuitive to the goal of the policy. Revising Policy 713 to require parental consent for schools to use and respect a child’s identity increases the risk of harm for 2SLGBTQIA+ children and youth in our province.
We are also concerned with the revision’s plans to have transgender and gender diverse children and youth with unsupportive parents meet with a mental health professional, namely school psychologists and school social workers, to “develop a plan” to engage their parents. Such “solution” has many issues and does not reflect the reality of the public school system, which is faced with well-documented issues with recruitment and retention of these professionals with even fewer of these professionals specializing in working with 2SLGBTQIA+ youth and their families. The revisions to Policy 713 and the Government of New Brunswick make no reference or attempt to resolve this shortage or to provide training to the professionals in the system. This means that transgender and gender-diverse students will be forced to wait for their identities to be affirmed, again increasing risk. Further, these revisions ignore the legal and ethical responsibilities for psychologists to obtain parental consent for their services for children under the age of 16. These further increases barriers to access, as parents can deny consent for these services, effectively leading to continued misgendering and deadnaming of students. Further, referring 2SLGBTQIA+ students to a mental health professional for no other reason but to be affirmed stigmatizes and pathologizes their identity. The revisions of this policy would also attempt to force school psychologists to actively participate in creating harm to their clients until parent/legal guardians’ consent to the use of their names and pronouns. This solution also ignores the autonomy of trans and gender diverse children in their coming out journey, which is deeply personal and different for everyone. This solution is not acceptable.
We are also disappointed by the Department’s lack of consultation around this review. No 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations have been consulted. Further, although mentioned as a key part of the policy, psychologists from neither the College nor from NBASP were consulted. This contradicts the Minister of Education’s repeated statements that all stakeholders would be consulted.
It is imperative for our school system to be safe and affirming spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth. Schools work hard to allow students to express themselves, develop their identity, and foster their autonomy. The revisions to Policy 713 run counterintuitive to these goals, and we call on the government to rescind changes made, engage in proper consultation and create a policy that weighs the importance of protection of and limiting potential harm to students.