Athens, February 21, 2023
Subject: «The observations and proposals of the GTSA on the Draft Law of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs entitled “We Live Harmoniously Together – Breaking the Silence”: Regulations for the prevention and treatment of violence and bullying in schools and other provisions”»
The Greek Transgender Support Association (GTSA), is a voluntary non-governmental organization that promotes the rights and freedoms of trans, gender-diverse, and LGBTQI+ persons in general, with this press release submits its contribution, observations and proposals on the Draft Law of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs entitled: “We Live Harmoniously Together – Breaking the Silence”: Regulations for the prevention and treatment of violence and bullying in schools and other provisions”.
To begin with, as we have repeatedly pointed out in other cases of Draft Laws, a first observation is that the language chosen should always be gender neutral, without being oriented towards references only to the male gender, such as “student”, ” classmates” or “Principal”. It is wrong to retain in modern legislation references to the male genderonly and to assume that it applies to all persons as this implicitly perpetuates patriarchal beliefs. Afterall, thisisalsomandatedbythelawpassedbytheGreekstate, Law 4604/2019, entitled: “Promotion of real gender equality, prevention and combating of gender-based violence – Provisions for the granting of citizenship – Provisions related to Local-Government elections- Other provisions”, which refers with absolute clarity to “Inclusion of the Gender Dimension in all policies (gender mainstreaming)”, which until now remains to the absolute extent a blank letter in its implementation.
Specifically, the GTSA notes the following article-by-article observations:
PART A’ PURPOSE AND OBJECT
Article 1.- Purpose.
In this article it is defined as the purpose of this draft law which – as stated – is “the prevention and treatment of intra-school violence and bullying in primary and secondary education”. We consider it necessary to add discrimination and harassment in the school environment as they cannot be acceptable behaviors in the school environment and often precede violence and bullying, and therefore we propose the rewording:
1. The purpose of Part B is to prevent and deal with discrimination, harassment, intra-school violence and bullying in primary and secondary education
Article 2.- Object
This Article defines the object of the specific legislation, which is the development of actions and programs to prevent and deal with incidents of intra-school violence and bullying, the establishment of Research Centers at the Academy of Athens, the regulation of the evaluation of the work of Principals and Teachers and Trainers of the public Vocational Training Institutes under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, as well as the establishment of regulations to deal with more specific issues under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. In addition to the fact that, as we proposed in Article 1, it is also possible to include discrimination and harassment:
In paragraph 1 of the Article, we propose the following wording:
[…]1. The object of Part A is the development of actions and programs to prevent and deal with incidents of discrimination, harassment, intra-school violence and bullying, especially for reasons of sex, race, color, national or ethnic origin, genealogical descent, religion, disability, sexual orientation ,gender expression, gender identity or sex characteristics, health condition, physical condition, or other factual condition […]
PART B ACTIONS AND PROGRAMS TO PREVENT AND ADDRESS INTRA-SCHOOL VIOLENCE AND BULLYING – BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS OF TRUST BETWEEN MEMBERS OF THE EDUCATIONAL COMMUNITY – DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATION OF A DIGITAL PLATFORM
Article 3. Actions and programs to prevent and deal with incidents of intra-school violence and bullying
In this Article, the actions aimed at preventing and dealing with intra-school violence and bullying (which, as we mentioned in Articles 1 & 2, must also include discrimination and harassment), as well as strengthening relationships of trust, are defined among members of the educational community.
In this provision, we propose to clearly state the actions to prevent and deal with incidents of discrimination, harassment, intra-school violence and bullying for reasons of sex, race, colour, national or ethnic origin, genealogical descent, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics, as is also noted in the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe CM/Rec(2010)5, which states:
[…]31. Taking into due account the over-riding interests of the child, member states should take appropriate legislative and other measures, addressed to educational staff and pupils, to ensure that the right to education can be effectively enjoyed without discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity;[…]
Also in this direction, it is necessary to capture and implement the Conclusion of the Committee for the preparation of the “National Strategy for LGBTI+ rights” by the Prime Minister, which in the chapter “Education without exclusions” typically states that:
[…]Teachers naturally have a central role in the educational process, for whom special horizontal education and training programs should be planned.[…]
[…] these programs would do well to approach all dimensions of the issue: the treatment of school violence and bullying, aspects related to social and political education, sexual education and wider issues of health education. The aim is for teachers to be able to implement relevant programs in schools, to help their school aim for a tradition of inclusion on these issues, and to have the knowledge needed to advise when dealing with emergencies. […]
In addition, we propose adding a new paragraph (ε) as follows:
[…]ε. Issuance of a special circular to all school units of a specialized circular for the management of day-to-day issues (among others) and for reasons of sexual orientation, genderexpression, gender identity and sexcharacteristics[…],
As it also suggests on p.13, the Conclusion of the Committee of “National Strategy for LGBTI+ rights”:
[…]An important first step in addressing many problems in primary and secondary education is the drafting by the Ministry of Education of a specialized circular to manage everyday issues of sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity and sexcharacteristics[…]
Finally, we propose that the last paragraph of this Article be reworded, so as to reflect the conclusion of collaborations between the competent services of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs – not in general and vaguely with all kinds of bodies, but – specifically with bodies whose object is intra-school violence, bullying and harassment. Specifically, we propose the following rewording:
«δ) the establishment of collaborations between competent services of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs with all kinds of bodies and structures and in particular with bodies of civil society whose object is to combat any form of intra-school bullying, discrimination, harassment and violence”
In this Article, in paragraph (η) it is more than necessary for the behaviors that constitute intra-school violence and bullying (and we repeat that discrimination and harassment must also be included), in addition to sexual orientation, religion and ethnic origin, the addition of sex, race, color, genealogical descent, disability, gender expression, gender identity or sex characteristics, as well as physical condition, health condition, or other factual condition, both for legal and substantive purposes range of trainees and especially transgender.
On this we should also point out that the issue of school bullying, especially bullying with a racist homophobic and transphobic background is particularly serious as often LGBTQI+ children and teenagers become targets of bullying or even violence for reasons of sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity or sex characteristics, as noted by all international organizations, while suicide rates for the above reasons are very high among members of the LGBTQI+ community.
Indeed, especially transphobia, bullying, insults, non-acceptance of gender identity and discrimination in the field of education, as evidenced by the dozens of incidents recorded in the GTSA and some of which are becoming public, in our country continue to increase.
We remind you of a racist incident in a high school in Ilion, Attica, due to gender expression, where a teacher took out of the class a gender diverse child who is a student to that school, because was wearing a skirt, calling it a “shame of society”. Also, aracistincidentata Public Vocational Training Institute (PVTI) duetogenderidentity.
Furthermore, according to the new Report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), LGBTQI+ students still face “intolerant and discriminatory attitudes at school, including by teachers”.
In accordance with all the above, we propose the rewording of the initial paragraph as well as paragraph (η) as follows:
Any form of physical, verbal, psychological, emotional, social, sexist, racist, sexual, online or other violence, as well as discrimination or harassment […]
[…] η). the offense of sex, race, color, national or ethnic origin, genealogical descent, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity or sex characteristics, physical condition, health condition, or other factual situation, either of students, or of teachers[…]
Article 5. Actions and programs carried out by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, the Institute of Educational Policy and the Institute of Computer Technology and Publications “Diofantos”
This Article defines the organization, design, as well as the implementation of actions and programs, to prevent and combat intra-school violence and bullying.
In addition to this, we recommend:
a. The drafting of a specialized Circular by the Ministry of Education for the management of everyday issues of sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity and sex characteristics (see Article 3).
b. The formulation of a specialized detailed mandatory educational program per class for sexuality education, in an inclusive and holistic form (comprehensive sexuality education), as recommended by the National Strategy for the equality of LGBTI+ , as well as in the Charter of the Council of Europe for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education.
As stated in the Introduction of the Charter:
[…]Education plays an essential role in the promotion of the core values of the Council of Europe: democracy, human rights and the rule of law, as well as in the prevention of human rights violations. More generally, education is increasingly seen as a defence against the rise of violence, racism, extremism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance[…].
Indeed, in relation to formal and vocational education, the Charter emphasizes:
[…]6. Member states should include education for democratic citizenship and human rights education in the curricula for formal education at pre-primary, primary and secondary school level as well as in general and vocational education and training. Member states should also continue to support,review and update education for democratic citizenship and human rights education in these curricula in order to ensure their relevance and encourage the sustainability of this area[…].
c. The integration of thematic circles promoting diversity, and information on issues of sexual education, gender identities and health education, in accordance with the Yogyakarta Principles, the Charter of the Council of Europe, the relevant provisions of Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 of the Committee of Ministers of the Member States of the Council of Europe (see reference 2), on combating discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as the guidelines of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.
Specifically, according to point 16 of the Yogyakarta Principles, member states must:
[…] b.Ensure that education is directed to the development of each student’s personality, talents, and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential, and responds to the needs of students of all sexual orientations and gender identities; d. Ensure that education methods, curricula and resources serve to enhance understanding of and respect for, inter alia, diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, including the particular needs of students, their parents and family members related to these grounds; […].
Also according to the Guidelines of the former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, regarding the field of education, it is stated in article 5:
[…] Article 5. Promote the respect and inclusion of gay, lesbian and trans persons in education and cultivate objective knowledge on issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity in schools and other educational institutions[…].
Finally, according to Report 2019/2933/RSP of the European Parliament:
[…] 4. stresses the importance of health and sexuality education, in particular for girls and young LGBTI people, who are particularly impacted by inequitable gender norms; stresses that such education must include teaching young people about relationships based on gender equality, consent and mutual respect as a way of preventing and combating gender stereotypes, LGBTI-phobia and gender-based violence;[…]
Therefore, in accordance with all of the above, we consider it imperative to introduce both the compulsory course and the thematic circles for the promotion of diversity, and information on issues of sexual education and gender identities, while additionally we should add that during the introduction of these, necessary is the role and participation of non-governmental organizations, – as mentioned in the introduction of Article 5, while it is also pointed out in the Charter of the Council of Europe (see reference 10):
[…]10. Member states should fostertheroleofnon-governmentalorganisations and youth organisations in education for democratic citizenship and human rights education, especially in non-formal education. They should recognise these organisations and their activities as a valued part of the educational system, provide them where possible with the support they need and make full use of the expertise they can contribute to all forms of education.[…]
d. Supporting the rapid development and effective operation of the “Special Observatory against School Violence and Bullying”, as well as the development of synergies with Civil Society organizations,including LGBTQI+ organizations.
e. Internal regulation of the operation of school units. Each school unit must, from the 2020-2021 school year, have an approved internal operating regulation in which the issues related to its operation are mentioned. In this context, we consider it absolutely necessary to add equal treatment and the prohibition of discrimination based on race, colour, national or ethnic origin, , genealogical descent, religion, disability, sexual orientation, sex, gender expression, gender identity or sex characteristics, physical condition, condition health, or other factual situation, as mandated by provisions of international organizations such as the Council of Europe, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the Report of the European Parliament, and the Yogyakarta Principles that we have already referred to above.
Article 6. Special Digital Platform.
This article sets out the method of a dedicated digital platform for reporting incidents of school violence, bullying and harassment. In parallel with this, there is the possibility of submitting reports, verbal or written, directly to the Principal or Head of each school unit and Laboratory Center. Here, we suggest rewording it as follows to ensure the record (when reports are made in writing or verbal):
[…]The submission of reports on the special digital platform does not depend on other terms and conditions, and is optional and parallel to the possibility of submitting reports, verbal or written, directly to the Principal or Head of each school unit and Laboratory Center (L.C. ), who, in the presence of the complaining person or the legal representative, records on the special digital platform the report of […]
Article 7. Responsible receiver of reports in the school unit
In Article 7, initially the institution of Receivers – Responsible is defined, who will be the recipients of reports on incidents of discrimination, harassment, bullying and intra-school violence that are submitted digitally. As stated in this provision, they are “in primary education the Principal or Head of the school unit and one (1) teacher appointed by him/her for this purpose. In secondary education, the Principal in each school unit is assisted by one (1) School Life Counselor who is responsible for crisis management and the prevention of any type of anti-social behaviour. Reports are processed at their own risk and their handling takes priority into reports of serious anti-social and delinquent behavior affecting students and disrupting education.”
Although we believe that every effort to deal with school bullying and intra-school violence is in a positive direction, all of this remains meaningless when:
1.The forms of school bullying or racism and their causes are not mentioned (we consider it absolutely necessary to specifically mention the reasons: race, color, national or ethnic origin, genealogical descent, religion, disability, sexual orientation, sex, gender expression, gender identity or sex characteristics, physical condition, health condition, or other factual condition),
2. It is not mentioned what are the criteria that must be met by the persons appointed to these positions, and,
3. The training that these persons must have and in which specific areas (for example – at a minimum – they must have received special seminars in the areas of intra-school bullying, violence and harassment in the aforementioned areas and have been evaluated on them or especially the school counselors to have specialized knowledge of child psychology).
Without all of the above, this Article is empty, without content and clearly there will be no result at all.
Likewise in Article 8 (Competent bodies for examining reports and incidents of intra-school violence and bullying), in Article 9 (Powers to deal with incidents of intra-school violence), as well as in Article 10 (Action groups – Recommendation and formation).
In addition to all of the above, the GTSA proposes:
a)the immediate amendment of the legislation on equal treatment, so as to include sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity and sex characteristics in the field of education,
b)taking legislative measures to deal with the public dissemination, public distribution or production or storage of racist material in the field of education in accordance with the recommendations of the Council of Europe,
c) to add special provisions for trans and gender diverse persons who will be allowed regardless of whether they have legally changed the registration in accordance with their gender identity: (i) the use of the name according to their gender identity, (ii) their registration according to their gender identity, and (iii) the use of toilets or locker rooms according to their gender identity, in compliance with a relevant decision of the Ombudsman where in case of a trans student proposed to the school principal, to respect her will regarding the use of the name she wants in her relationships with her classmates and teachers, her women’s clothing preferences, and the use of the women’s toilet,
d)implement ongoing training programs on issues of sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity and sex characteristics.
The Greek Transgender Support Association, submits the above proposals, and calls on the Ministry of Education to take into account all our above observations, in the direction of the real prevention and treatment of violence and bullying in schools, the universal application of equal treatment in the field of education , because unfortunately the current legislation on equal treatment and the prohibition of discrimination does not include the field of education in its scope, as well as an education that will promote the human rights of all our fellow human beings, including LGBTQI+ persons.
THE BOARD OF MEMBERS
GREEK TRANSGENDER SUPPORT ASSOCIATION
6 Evagelistrias, Kallithea Athens, 17671
Tel. (+30) 210. 9210 697
Office hours: Monday to Friday 11.00-18.00
firstname.lastname@example.org – email@example.com