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Church of England Says Kids Should Feel Safe to Explore Gender Identities

In expanded guidelines to curb bullying, the church stressed the importance of creating a safe environment for students' self-exploration.

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The Church of England is taking steps to try counter transphobic bullying in its schools. In new guidelines published on Monday and reported by The New York Times, the church stressed the importance of supporting gender exploration among its students and offered guidance on allowing children to “play with the many cloaks of identity” in the classroom.

In a new directive titled “Valuing All God’s Children,” the church highlighted the danger of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying in its 4,700 parochial schools, particularly among elementary school children. The directive discusses how Anglican schools should be environments that encourage self-exploration and avoid pushing children into “adult or pseudo-adult roles” during formative moments in their identity.

“Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgment or derision,” the church says of elementary school students. “For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess’s tiara and heels and/or the firefighter’s helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment. Childhood has a sacred space for creative self-imagining.”

“Valuing All God’s Children” features sobering statistics on LGBT bullying in Anglican schools, as well as the high-risk of depression, self-harm, and suicide among vulnerable students. Detailed, expanded guidelines are offered for teachers on how to recognize and intervene in bullying.

The directive also stresses that these guidelines align with the Church of England’s religious doctrine, not only its educational ideals.

“Central to Christian theology is the truth that every single one of us is made in the image of God. Every one of us is loved unconditionally by God,” said Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, in a foreword. “We must avoid, at all costs, diminishing the dignity of any individual to a stereotype or a problem. Church of England schools offer a community where everyone is a person known and loved by God, supported to know their intrinsic value.”

“Valuing All God’s Children” updates guidelines issued by the Church of England in 2014 to counter homophobic bullying in its schools. The updated rules are the church’s most progressive attempt yet to foster an inclusive environment for students.

While more conservative Anglicans have already taken issue with the church’s decision, the new guidelines illustrate its firm resolve to support children’s development and safety. “The Church of England is committed to an education that enables people to live life in all its fullness,” wrote Archbishop Welby.

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