Singapore

Schools can be flexible for students with gender dysphoria: Minister

Such students may face difficulties with certain rules, says Education Minister

Where there are valid medical grounds, schools can exercise flexibility and work out practical arrangements for students diagnosed with gender dysphoria and undergoing hormone therapy if they face difficulties with certain school rules, Education Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament yesterday.

In putting in place such arrangements, schools consult and work closely with different stakeholders, including the relevant medical professionals, the students concerned and their parents, he added.

"We have a duty of care to every student," Mr Wong said.

"For students with gender dysphoria, our main focus is continuing to provide them with a conducive learning environment and to support their overall well-being.

"Recognising that the issues are complex, and that there are diverse opinions among students and their parents, we strive to deal with these situations sensitively and with compassion."

"One particularly difficult issue is with school rules," he added, noting they are in place to help students cultivate self-discipline and a sense of responsibility, but that students with gender dysphoria and undergoing hormone therapy could face difficulties with certain rules.

GUIDELINES

The minister was responding to a question from Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC), who asked about the Ministry of Education's (MOE) policies and guidelines on students with gender dysphoria, and how much autonomy schools have on these issues, following the case of an 18-year-old transgender student who was in the news over issues she faced at her school.

Mr Wong said that as each student's situation is unique, the matter of what alternative arrangements are put in place has to be dealt with individually.

"Our guiding principles are to treat these students with dignity and respect, and to provide as much support as we can to help them," he said.

Last month, the student, who had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, claimed that MOE had intervened in her hormone treatment, although she said she had parental consent to seek treatment.

Gender dysphoria refers to the psychological distress that results from the mismatch between one's sense of self and one's body.

MOE has said it had not interfered with the student's hormone treatment, and that MOE and schools work closely with and respect the advice given by healthcare professionals.

In response to Ms He's query about whether MOE will consider presenting a public report on matters related to students with gender dysphoria to Parliament regularly, Mr Wong said MOE has found that family members, especially parents, are "very uncomfortable" with a public airing of their situation.

Their requests for privacy should be respected, he added.

MEDICAL & HEALTH