Your Legal Rights at School

— By 24 February 2013

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 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.

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.

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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