Student Rights

Free legal help for students, parents & caregivers

Transgender, agender, non-binary and gender non-conforming students

As a transgender student, can I continue to attend my single-sex school?

Education Act 1989, s 146A

New Zealand law allows for boys’ schools, girls’ schools and co-educational schools. If you are, for example, attending a girls’ school and transitioning from female to male, you may wish to remain at your current school. It is not illegal for you to attend – the Minister of Education can allow a certain number of boys to enrol at a girls’ school and vice versa. However, you will need to talk to your school, as the Education Act sets out a process to follow.

Can I attend a single-sex school of my chosen gender?

Human Rights Act 1993, s 21

Yes. You have the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sex, which includes gender and gender identity. However, the school may ask for proof of your gender or of your intention to transition.

Can I attend a single-sex school as an agender, non-binary or gender non-conforming student?

National Education Goal 2

The law on this is untested. However, it seems that it would be inconsistent with the following policies underpinning the education sector to exclude a gender non-conforming student from their school of choice:

Does my school have to recognise my chosen gender on their records?

Human Rights Act 1993, s 21

As part of freedom from discrimination, your gender should be recognised. Also, under the Privacy Act, everyone has the right to correct information held about themselves by an organisation. This means that you can ask your school to list your chosen gender. If they refuse, they must at least attach your version of the information to your file.

The school should also recognise your right to privacy, and not disclose your gender identity to others without your permission unless necessary.

If you are having problems with getting your school to recognise your gender, you should first discuss it with the school. The next step is to make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. For help with this, contact Student Rights Service (formerly the Parents Legal Information Line) on 0800 499 488. Alternatively, you can make the complaint yourself online. For more information, see www.hrc.co.nz

Can I wear the uniform matching my gender identity?

Human Rights Commission ‘Supporting trans students
Ministry of Education ‘Sexuality Education: A guide for principals, boards of trustees, and teachers’

The law on this has not yet been tested. However, the Human Rights Commission has said that “trans students should be allowed to wear the uniform that matches their gender identity”. If you attend a single sex school, they may not be able to develop a new uniform for you. However, they may allow you to modify part of the uniform, for example by wearing dress pants rather than a skirt.

Transgender students should not be punished for wearing the uniform matching their gender identity, and bullying should not be tolerated.

Many schools in the United Kingdom have begun to have gender neutral uniform policies. This involves having gender neutral clothing options (such as shorts) and, making all students subject to the same rules surrounding hair, nails and jewellery. This is supported by the Human Rights Commission and by the New Zealand Ministry of Education, which has suggested that schools consider offering a gender neutral option when uniforms come up for review. If you would like your school to consider this, you could bring it up with the board of trustees.

Does my school have to provide a unisex bathroom?

See “Specific health and safety issues”.

Further information

For more information and support for transgender and gender diverse students, check out insideout.org.nz/trans-resource and genderminorities.com