Monday, October 06, 2008

Transgender students force restroom change in British university

No privacy at the University of Manchester. I wonder how many sexual assaults it will take before they reverse this policy?

The ladies' lavatory is now simply labelled "toilet" while the mens' has become "toilets with urinals". The student union decided to change the signs during a meeting of its executive in the summer following a number of complaints from transgender students. Women's officer Jennie Killip refused to say how many people had complained, and there are no figures for how many transgender people there are among the university's 35,000 population. She said: "If you were born female, still presently quite feminine, but defined as a man you should be able to go into the men's toilets.

"You don't necessarily have to have had gender reassignment surgery, but you could just define yourself as a man, feel very masculine in yourself, feel that in fact being a woman is not who you are. "Transgender people can face violence and abuse when they go into toilets and we wanted to provide a place where they can feel comfortable. "I have had complaints from people who said we didn't have any facilities for them."

But the switch has caused consternation among many of the students returning from their summer break. Second-year student Jane McConnell, 19, a news editor on the Student Direct student newspaper, said: "While these signs might be appropriate for people with different sexualities, I also think that many people from different religious and ethnic groups are going to feel uncomfortable using these facilities. "Even though they're just two signs, at the end of the day, toilets should be for women and for men specifically, not for both." Another student said: "This is ridiculous. It is just too much political correctness".


Scotland: Infant pupils to get "free" meals

"There aint no such thing as a free lunch" -- just something somebody else pays for

All pupils will receive free meals in the first three years of primary school, the Scottish Government has announced. The service will begin in 2010 after a pilot in several areas, which saw the take-up of meals rise from 53% to 75%. Council umbrella group Cosla denied claims from some authorities that services would have to be cut to pay for the move.

Ministers said helping children in their early years was a priority. The Scottish Government said councils would be expected to find the money for the scheme from the funding settlement already agreed. Scottish Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the year-long, $10m pilot scheme, involving 35,000 pupils in Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire, East Ayrshire, Fife and the Borders, was a success. The pilot also reported that parents and teachers were positive about the scheme, while some pupils enjoyed trying new foods. "This government has made it a priority to help children in their early years and this initiative does just that, providing every child with a free school meal in their first years at primary school," said Ms Hyslop.

The Scottish Government has already published guidance to help school catering staff produce healthy meals. According to Labour, the education conveners of several local authorities - including North Lanarkshire, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh and the leader of Inverclyde Council - raised concern over whether they could pay for the service, with some saying they would have to make cuts to fund it. But Cosla president Pat Watters told BBC Scotland there was $80m in the budget to provide free school meals to primaries one, two and three. He added: "There is no reason why anyone should have to cut anything to fund this. This is a government funded project."

Labour education spokeswoman Rhona Brankin also raised concerns about the funding, adding: "Local authorities are already struggling to employ newly qualified teachers and reduce class sizes, but some schools can't even afford photocopying."

Liz Smith, of the Scottish Tories, questioned whether a blanket free meals policy would target the right pupils, while the Liberal Democrats' Margaret Smith said ministers had "failed to make the case" that the plan was the best way to tackle poor diets.

But John Dickie, head of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said the announcement was "a massive step forward" in the campaign to ensure healthy meals for children, whatever their home circumstances. "It will help boost children's health, education and wellbeing and provide a really welcome benefit to hard pressed families across Scotland," he said.

A two-year free school meals pilot in primaries is due to start in England next year, while the Welsh Assembly administration said it was currently focussing on improving nutritional standards.


Australia: Government-supported pedophilia?

Interesting to see who the teachers side with

PARENTS have expressed outrage over revelations that controversial artist Bill Henson was allowed into a primary school by its principal to search for models. Victorian Premier John Brumby said yesterday it was "completely inappropriate" that Henson was escorted onto a Melbourne school yard. The Victorian Education Department has launched an official investigation into the incident.

Federation of P&C Associations of NSW president Dianne Giblin said it had been a "betrayal of trust of parents". "Schools should not be a place to access for commercial purposes," Mrs Giblin said. "Any outside person or group coming into the school must do so for an educational purpose only and it supports our concerns of principals making these decisions and not having sectoral approval."

Henson was denounced by political leaders and his photographs seized by police and pulled from the Roslyn Oxley Gallery in Sydney in May following outrage over the picture of a naked 12-year-old girl on the invitation to his show. Fresh controversy has ensued following details from a new book, by Fairfax Media journalist David Marr, that Henson has been invited into the Melbourne primary school in his search for models.

Mr Brumby said: "Such activity taking place in a Victorian state school is completely inappropriate. "Like all parents, I have a deep concern about this sort of behaviour and I have asked the Education Minister for a full report from the department and the school on this matter."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull expressed disgust and outrage yesterday. "I think parents would be revolted and horrified if this were true," Mr Rudd said. Mr Turnbull said: "There are very big issues here relating to the protection of children, their privacy and informed consent. The matters that have been described in the media are totally inappropriate and unacceptable and I share the outrage that has been expressed by many people at these events."

But Maree O'Halloran, the outgoing president of the NSW Teachers Federation, said it was a complex issue and there was a risk Henson could be unduly tarred. "There are very strict rules governing who can come into a school and principals and teachers follow those carefully," she said. "I think we do need to be careful not to tar someone as being a perpetrator of some sort of child abuse when we're talking about an artist. "We've got a person's reputation at stake here and a person who is a respected, professional artist."

However, Henson's supporters have rejected claims he was allowed to wander the grounds of the Melbourne primary school. Henson was accompanied by the principal at all times when he visited St Kilda Primary School looking for child models to pose for his artwork. He has lectured to school groups and his artwork is a part of the Victorian school curriculum. The artist declined to comment on the matter yesterday but it is understood he is horrified by claims he acted inappropriately.

His supporters are particularly upset by a cartoon that appeared in The Weekend Australian yesterday depicting the artist in a school playground while children hide behind bushes, saying: "Psst . maybe he's one of those arts bandits."


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