04/21/2014 02:45 EDT | Updated 06/21/2014 05:59 EDT

Transgender students included in Vancouver school policy review

A local trans-rights advocate is applauding the efforts of the Vancouver School Board to update its school policy and student conduct guidelines to better support transgender students.​

The school board has spent the past few months listening to concerns in order to revise a 10-year-old plan created to help foster a safe learning environment.

Marie Little, chair of Vancouver's Trans Alliance Society, says the revisions are both welcomed, and necessary.

"It indicates people are beginning to move in the right direction in their thinking," she said.

The new content in the draft plan includes a section on gender identity and expression, and the guidelines outline practices that include allowing trans students to dress, within existing school rules, according to their self-identified gender and to be called by a name or pronoun that matches their identity.

Under the plan's revisions, which will be presented for approval later next month, teachers are advised to cut down on sex-segregated activities, and trans students are permitted to use washrooms or change rooms that match their gender identity.

The VSB says decisions around gender-separated facilities will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The proposal doesn't go as far as a recent move by the Vancouver Park Board to create gender neutral washrooms.

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Little says steps like those outlined in the plan are important, because those who identify as transgender are often bullied more than others in the LGBTQ community.

"The whole thing about being gay or straight is, for a whole long time, [it's] easier to hide. If you're trans, [and you] show up one day at school in a skirt, everybody's going to notice," Little said.

But social policy activist and radio host Kari Simpson says the revisions go too far and give preferential treatment to trans students, when the school board should be treating all students as equal.

"We're saying, 'All you other young ladies don't matter. If the 17-year-old grad student wants to become a woman and use your washroom, too bad. We're going to let him,'" she said.

Little denies that the trans community is asking to be treated differently.

"People who are trans don't have a choice about it," she said. "They just want to live their lives and they are no threat to anyone."