Last updated at 2:04 AM on 13th February 2012
Scotland’s children’s tsar has backed a schoolboy’s campaign to wear a skirt to class.
Tam Baillie, the Scottish parliament’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, said 13-year-old Luca Scarabello had ‘raised important rights issues’.
The teenager, who attends St Mungo’s High School in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, lodged a petition with the Scottish Government in November calling for a ban on ‘gender-specific uniforms’.
The public petitions committee (PPC) is considering his proposals.
In his response to the PPC, Mr Bailie claimed that forcing uniforms on children could cause ‘serious distress’ for those with gender variants.
Mr Baillie said ‘We should be rejecting discriminatory practice and allowing our children and young people to express themselves.
‘I would agree that gender specific uniforms or dress codes can cause serious distress in gender-variant pupils.
‘School uniforms and dress codes should not be discriminate, directly or indirectly against any of these protected groups.
‘Schools should be reviewing their uniform code policies to ensure they do not have the effect of unlawfully discriminating against pupils with a protected characteristic.’
The Young peoples’ commissioner believes that forcing children to stick to strict uniform policies could contravene the UN convention on the Rights of the Child and the Equality Act 2010.
The latter law places a duty on public bodies to prevent discrimination on the grounds of gender-reassignment or sexual orientation.
However he accepted that having a uniform acts as a “leveller” between children of differing financial backgrounds and helped reduce stigma and bullying.
He added ‘This is clearly and issue which divides people and there are strong views on both sides.
‘I believe we should be celebrating difference, rejecting discriminatory practice and allowing our children and young people to express themselves freely in a way that is both inclusive and respectful and helps them to develop a strong sense of who they are.
‘I would suggest that a balance be struck between school dress codes on the one hand and the need for relaxation of requirements, where this is appropriate, on the other.’
Mr Ballie made the comments as he lent his backing to teenager Luca Scarabello who is campaigning for boys to be allowed to wear the traditionally female clothing in class.
The youngster from from Camelon, Stirlingshire believes that if girls can wear trousers boys should be able to wear skirts.
The campaign is being backed by the Scottish Transgender Alliance and LGBT Scotland, which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and in his petition, the schoolboy , said ‘Gender specific uniforms … cause problems for gender variant pupils and create a stigma. It is outdated nonsense.’
MSP have been discussing the proposal to scrap ‘gender specific’ uniforms.
However Mr Ballie thinks a blanket ban is not the way forward, with a more flexible approach being the preferred option, and he called for a debate on the teen’s proposals that traditional uniforms be replaces with more comfortable and cheaper alternatives.
But the proposals have been rubbished by family campaigners.
Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said ‘Schools should be free to make their own decisions about uniform policies in consultation with parents, without the constraints of political correctness.
‘Gender is determined by objective biological facts and not by a person’s feelings, no matter how strong they may be.
‘Rather than encouraging children to become what they are not, we need to help them recognise and accept what they are.
‘To that end, maintaining a distinction between what boys and girls are required to wear can be positive and helpful for pupils struggling with gender identity issues.
‘This is yet another case of the language of children’s rights being used in an attempt to add weight to what is nothing more than a personal minority view.
‘To enforce it on everyone by force of law is undemocratic.’
It is not the first time the issue has hit the headlines and in January, a Cambridgeshire couple revealed they kept the gender of their son, Sasha, a secret for five years until he started school.
Parents Beck Laxton and Kieran Cooper referred to him as ‘the infant’ and allowed him to cross-dress.
They said they did not want to ‘stereotype’ him.