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Your Legal Rights at School

— By 24 February 2013
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Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited under law. The Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (Vic) makes it is unlawful for a school to:
•    discriminate against a student on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in any way
•    fail to take reasonable precautions to prevent staff or students from discriminating or harrassing others.


DISCRIMINATION
Discrimination can be direct or indirect. Direct discrimination occurs when a student is treated less equally compared to other students because of their sexual or gender identity. Indirect discrimination occurs when a school imposes a requirement, rule or practice:
•    that a student with specified attributes cannot comply with;
•    that a higher proportion of students without the specified attributes can comply with;
•    that is not reasonable having regard to the circumstances of the case. Discrimination is not allowed, even if your school discriminates unintentionally.

Examples of discrimination include, not allowing a student to stay overnight at a school camp, not being allowed to start a school club, even when following school rules, or expelling a student on the basis of the their sexual or gender identity.

HARRASSMENT
It’s also a school’s responsibility to ensure that you are safe from harrassment, such as students or teachers making negative jokes, threats, or offensive remarks based on someone’s sexual or gender identity.

REPORTING YOUR SCHOOL
A person who believes they have been victim of unlawful discrimination may lodge a written complaint with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. Once a complaint is lodged, the matter will:
•    be investigated by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
•    (if unresolved), go to a more formal hearing process before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
If a school is found liable for unlawful discrimination, it may be ordered to:
•    refrain from committing any further discrimination and/or
•    pay the affected student compensation, or do a specific act to address the loss, such as make a public apology.

You can find out more information about your legal rights at humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au

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