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are schools doing enough to support trans students?

“Morning, girls. Morning, Jack.”

When Jackson Lennon (20) transitioned from female to male in an all-girls Dublin Catholic secondary school, he received great support from teachers and friends. However, he also says he confronted opposition from some quarters when he asked to dress a way that was consistent with his gender identity.

“The school was strict about uniforms, and everyone had to wear long skirts. They called me out of class a lot,” says Lennon.

“I was very close to one of my teachers and he really fought for me. A few teachers were like that, but he was a teacher representative on the board of management. He was a lovely, lovely man and he saw that I was very unhappy, that I was struggling,” Lennon says.

“He asked them why I couldn’t wear trousers. At the time there was no trouser option in the school [uniform] and he helped make it happen. The other students didn’t mind what I wore.

“Their only complaint was that I got to wear warm, fluffy socks when they had to wear tights through winter. But that became a joke. Nobody cared what I wore in the end.

“My mam stood by me the whole time, taking time off work because she didn’t want me to stop going to school. She wanted me to be happy and comfortable at school. Eventually, I was allowed to wear tracksuit pants, but they looked awful with the rest of the uniform. So, my mam brought me to the shop and we got proper trousers.”

Lennon says individual teachers responded differently: some were happy to use his preferred name; others were not. Some were sensitive and supportive, others came across as petty and unkind. He feels more could have been done by management, such as a training workshop on transgender students for staff.

“They made out like they were protecting me, that I’d get bullied if I stuck out like a sore thumb,” he says.

Lennon’s school did not respond to requests for comment.

Outlier

How to respond to transgender students is an issue many Irish schools are only beginning to grapple with. Ireland is an outlier in its tendency to separate boys and girls in education. Apart from Muslim countries, Ireland has one of the highest instances of single-sex schooling in the world. This mode of organising young people proves problematic for those who don’t fall easily into one of two traditional gender categories.

Change is happening, albeit unevenly. We’re more used to seeing many schoolgirls wearing trousers, a seemingly gender-neutral option. Inside school buildings, some students have the option of gender-neutral toilets and changing facilities, but not all.

Other people not accepting a child will not make the child un-trans

Contributors to a 2020 qualitative research project undertaken by University of Limerick’s school of education and Transgender Equality Network Ireland (Teni) recount instances of bullying and intimidation in single-sex toilets.

Esther, the parent of a trans boy, explained how the 15-year-old was subjected to non-physical bullying because he used the male changing room. “I think they’d thrown his stuff on the floor. I was just so upset about that.” Another child reports being physically assaulted in a single-sex toilet.

PE lessons can prove problematic in both mixed and single-sex schools. Research shows many transgender students reported that discrimination prevented them from participating in sports fully and safely.

A further study carried out by Aoife Neary and Ruari-Santiago McBride reveals the limited pre-service and in-service training for school staff around gender diversity. Staff in the study said this left them feeling anxious and ill-prepared to support their transitioning students. A minority of students confided in a staff member only to be met with an invalidating response. One child, Shane, interviewed for the study, explained that even after his parents’ intervention, teachers continued to name him incorrectly, causing considerable distress.

Panic

Another child, Esme, recounting a similar experience, reported having panic attacks which led to non-attendance, impacting on her education and development. The study includes examples of indirect bullying and transphobia among staff, in line with international findings.

However, staff are also described as “helpful” and “compassionate” in the report, particularly when school leaders play a key role in educating and training the school community appropriately. Simple steps such as apologising for an error in pronoun usage make a significant difference to children’s wellbeing.

Dr Malie Coyne, a clinical psychologist, says the type of school really matters.

“I know of transgender children who have moved school because there was little inclusivity in their previous school,” she says.

“A gendered uniform is extremely difficult for these children. Having to wear a skirt when you identify as a boy can be humiliating.

“It will have an impact on their mental health and wellbeing; that’s enough of a reason to support the child. This needs to be part of the SPHE [Social Personal and Health Education] programme in schools, where transgender issues are discussed with all children.”

Coyne says it is crucially important to the wellbeing of a young person that his or her gender identity is treated with dignity, respect and fairness.

Practical decisions must be taken to reflect differences within the school community

“Other people not accepting a child will not make the child un-trans. Children [who are trans] growing up will realise they’re not comfortable in their body and it could take years for them to come to terms with that.

“Sometimes the biggest challenge can be for the child to accept it themselves. You put that on top of being a teenager when the brain is under construction and your hormones are flaring, and your body is changing, and you’ve got this fear of your body developing.

“It’s no surprise that their mental health can be impacted, which is the reason we need to support children on their journeys of identity. They have every right to be themselves.”

Voice

Parents’ representatives say consultation should happen in schools so everybody has a voice. Áine Lynch of the National Parents Council Primary says: “This isn’t just about gender, it’s also about cultural inclusivity. Practical decisions must be taken to reflect differences within the school community. These consultations need to happen frequently so that nobody is left out.”

John Curtis of the Joint Managerial Board, which supports most voluntary secondary schools, says uniforms rarely pose a problem in the sector.

“Most of the schools we work with are single-sex. Uniforms can play an important role in providing a level playing field.

“Nobody is looking over their shoulder at who has or hasn’t got the latest runners, everyone is the same. If any individual issues arise, they are dealt with and sorted out at local level. We have excellent relationships with all parties involved.”

Jackson Lennon (20), transitioned from female to male in an all-girls Dublin Catholic secondary school. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne
Jackson Lennon (20), transitioned from female to male in an all-girls Dublin Catholic secondary school. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne

Changing times: How some schools are adapting their policies

Toilets: Newly-built schools now have the option of gender-neutral toilets. Instead of traditional boys’ and girls’ toilets with urinals or cubicles in closed-off rooms, the new design is based on private cubicles that open into a public or common washbasin area.

Uniforms: More schools are moving to provide a variation in uniform policy (trousers, skirts, tracksuits, etc). Single-sex schools are increasingly offering gender-neutral options, such as trousers in all-girls’ schools.

Pronouns: Schools are advised to discuss with students and their parents how they should refer to a student and day-to-day use of pronouns.

Official registers: Schools may change the name and gender of students on official databases with a gender recognition certificate, while the State Examinations Commission deals with cases individually.

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Holiday let clampdown welcomed: But concerns raised over how rules will be enforced

A clampdown on new holiday lets has been welcomed as a way to stop local people from being locked out of buying a property in their community.

The Government said the new measures being introduced in the summer will ensure they can afford to live in the place they call home.

In popular tourist areas, residents say high numbers of short-term lets listed on websites such as Airbnb are preventing them from being able to move on to, or up, the property ladder.

New clampdown on holiday lets is aimed at preventing people being locked out of the housing market

New clampdown on holiday lets is aimed at preventing people being locked out of the housing market

A mandatory national registration scheme will be introduced to help councils understand the extent of short-term lets in their area and the effects on their communities.

A new planning ‘use class’ will also be created for short-term lets, meaning council officials would be able to refuse permission for a home to be converted into a holiday let. Existing properties won’t need to apply for permission, however. 

The rules will not apply to people renting out their main home for less than 90 nights a year, while hotels, hostels and B&Bs are also unaffected by the changes. 

Perhaps surprisingly, holiday let platforms such as Airbnb And Sykes Holiday Cottages said they welcomed the changes. 

Amanda Cupples, of Airbnb, said: ‘The introduction of a short-term lets register is good news for everyone.

‘Families who host on Airbnb will benefit from clear rules that support their activity, and local authorities will get access to the information they need to assess and manage housing impacts and keep communities healthy, where necessary.’

And Ben Edgar Spier, of Sykes Holiday Cottages, said: ‘The announcement of the registration scheme for England’s short-term letting industry has the intention to track the size and impact of the sector and ensure short-term lets are safe, something which Sykes fully supports.

‘Short-term lets are the economic lifeblood of many parts of the UK and a register to provide accurate data was clearly needed before any further regulation risks unforeseen impacts on communities and visitors alike.

Short-term lets are the economic lifeblood of many parts of the UK 

‘We welcome the registration scheme being national, mandatory, and presumably online. Our hope and expectation is that it will give our market some much needed clarity and drive compliance across the country.’

However, he also called on the Government to create more housing through repurposing vacant buildings. 

‘On the target to deliver one million homes this Parliament, we note that there are far more underused and vacant buildings in existence as well as land with planning permission, all of which contribute far less if anything to local economies, compared with holiday lets,’ Spier said. 

‘We would urge the Government to consider measures to incentivise the bringing of those buildings and land into use to boost housing supply.’

While experts welcomed the changes, announced by Housing Secretary Michael Gove, one estate agent questioned whether they could be enforced

While experts welcomed the changes, announced by Housing Secretary Michael Gove, one estate agent questioned whether they could be enforced

How will the new rules be enforced? 

North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf, insisted that any new rules would need to be properly enforced to ensure they worked long term.

He said: ‘The aim of the policy to give local people, however you may define them, improved choice of homes to buy and to rent.

‘However, one size does not fit all and local authorities should be given the discretion to apply the rules depending on issues in their area. For instance, if there is high volume of holiday lets then that may need to be balanced out to make sure there is sufficient range of other properties available to buy and to rent. 

‘On the other hand, a policy which is too prescriptive may be damaging in an area with relatively low quantity of holiday lets.

‘The key point is whether this is just politicking, and how, and when it is going to be introduced. From what we can see, there is very little enforcement of existing rules so one wonders what the point is of stricter regulations if existing rules are not enforced.’

Holiday let prices in popular areas 

Cornwall and Pembrokeshire are popular areas among second home owners and those looking for a holiday let investment.

We take a look at a property to rent in each of those areas that are listed to rent on Sykes Cottages.

The Pottery

The Pottery is a three-bedroom holiday let in Pembrokeshire’s Newport that is available to rent for £1,470 for seven nights in July.

The Pottery is a three-bedroom holiday let in Pembrokeshire's Newport that is listed on Sykes Cottages

The Pottery is a three-bedroom holiday let in Pembrokeshire’s Newport that is listed on Sykes Cottages

The holiday let has an attractive interior and is available to rent for £1,470 for seven nights in July

The holiday let has an attractive interior and is available to rent for £1,470 for seven nights in July

Sandy Cove

Sandy Cove is a three-bedroom holiday let in Cornwall’s Praa Sands that is available to rent for £2,392 for seven nights in July. 

Sandy Cove is a three-bedroom holiday let in Cornwall's Praa Sands that is listed on Sykes Cottages

Sandy Cove is a three-bedroom holiday let in Cornwall’s Praa Sands that is listed on Sykes Cottages

You'll need deep pockets to stay at the property, which is available to rent for £2,392 for seven nights in July

You’ll need deep pockets to stay at the property, which is available to rent for £2,392 for seven nights in July

The Government said the changes were part of its long-term plan for housing, which it hoped would ‘unlock more of the homes this country needs’.

Its target is to deliver one million homes this Parliament.

It hopes to introduce the new holiday let rules from this summer.  

Secretary of State for Levelling Up Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said:

‘Short-term lets can play an important role in the UK’s flourishing tourism economy, providing great, easily-accessible accommodation in some of the most beautiful parts of our country.

‘But in some areas, too many local families and young people feel they are being shut out of the housing market and denied the opportunity to rent or buy in their own community.

‘So the Government is taking action as part of its long-term plan for housing. That means delivering more of the right homes in the right places, and giving communities the power to decide.

‘This will allow local communities to take back control and strike the right balance between protecting the visitor economy and ensuring local people get the homes they need.’

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Congratulations, Privacy Just Took A Great Leap Out the Window!

Your Data Is Being Used Without Your Permission And Knowledge

The Voice Of EU | In the heart of technological innovation, the collision between intellectual property rights and the development of cutting-edge AI technologies has sparked a significant legal battle. The New York Times has taken legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft, filing a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court. This legal maneuver aims to address concerns surrounding the unauthorized use of the Times’ content for the training of AI models, alleging copyright infringements that could potentially result in billions of dollars in damages.

READ: HOW YOUR DATA IS BEING USED TO TRAIN A.I.

This legal tussle underlines the escalating tension between technological advancements and the protection of intellectual property. The crux of the lawsuit revolves around OpenAI and Microsoft allegedly utilizing the Times’ proprietary content to advance their own AI technology, directly competing with the publication’s services. The lawsuit suggests that this unauthorized utilization threatens the Times’ ability to offer its distinctive service and impacts its AI innovation, creating a competitive landscape that challenges the publication’s proprietary content.

Amidst the growing digital landscape, media organizations like the Times are confronting a myriad of challenges. The migration of readers to online platforms has significantly impacted traditional media, and the advent of artificial intelligence technology has added another layer of complexity. The legal dispute brings to the forefront the contentious practice of AI companies scraping copyrighted information from online sources, including articles from media organizations, to train their generative AI chatbots. This strategy has attracted substantial investments, rapidly transforming the AI landscape.

Exhibit presented by the New York Times’ legal team of ChatGPT replicating a article after being prompted

The lawsuit highlights instances where OpenAI’s technology, specifically GPT-4, replicated significant portions of Times articles, including in-depth investigative reports. These outputs, alleged by the Times to contain verbatim excerpts from their content, raise concerns about the ethical and legal boundaries of using copyrighted material for AI model training without proper authorization or compensation.

The legal action taken by the Times follows attempts to engage in discussions with Microsoft and OpenAI, aiming to address concerns about the use of its intellectual property. Despite these efforts, negotiations failed to reach a resolution that would ensure fair compensation for the use of the Times’ content while promoting responsible AI development that benefits society.

In the midst of this legal battle, the broader questions surrounding the responsible and ethical utilization of copyrighted material in advancing technological innovations come to the forefront.

The dispute between the Times, OpenAI, and Microsoft serves as a significant case study in navigating the intricate intersection of technological progress and safeguarding intellectual property rights in the digital age.


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Conflicted History: ‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

The Voice Of EU | In the highly anticipated blockbuster movie, “Oppenheimer,” the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man behind the first atomic bomb, is portrayed as a riveting tale of triumph and tragedy.

As the film takes center stage, it also brings to light the often-overlooked impacts on a community living downwind from the top-secret Manhattan Project testing site in southern New Mexico.

A Forgotten Legacy

While the film industry and critics praise “Oppenheimer,” a sense of frustration prevails among the residents of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, who continue to grapple with the consequences of the Manhattan Project. Tina Cordova, a cancer survivor and founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, expresses their feelings, stating, “They invaded our lives and our lands and then they left,” referring to the scientists and military personnel who conducted secret experiments over 200 miles away from their community.

The Consortium, alongside organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists, has been striving to raise awareness about the impact of the Manhattan Project on New Mexico’s population. Advocates emphasize the necessity of acknowledging the human cost of the Trinity Test, the first atomic blast, and other nuclear weapons activities that have affected countless lives in the state.

The Ongoing Struggle for Recognition

As film enthusiasts celebrate the drama and brilliance of “Oppenheimer,” New Mexico downwinders feel overlooked by both the U.S. government and movie producers. The federal government’s compensation program for radiation exposure still does not include these affected individuals. The government’s selection of the remote and flat Trinity Test Site, without warning residents in the surrounding areas, further added to the controversy.

Living off the land, the rural population in the Tularosa Basin had no idea that the fine ash settling on their homes and fields was a result of the world’s first atomic explosion.

The government initially attempted to cover up the incident, attributing the bright light and rumble to an explosion at a munitions dump. It was only after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan weeks later that New Mexico residents realized the magnitude of what they had witnessed.

Tracing the Fallout

According to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, large amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere during the Trinity Test, with fallout descending over a vast area. Some of the fallout reached as far as the Atlantic Ocean, but the greatest concentration settled approximately 30 miles from the test site.

Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

The consequences of this catastrophic event have affected generations of New Mexicans, who still await recognition and justice for the harm caused by nuclear weapons.

A Tale of Contrasts: Los Alamos and the Legacy of Oppenheimer

As the film’s spotlight shines on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a contrasting narrative unfolds in Los Alamos, more than 200 miles north of the Tularosa Basin. Los Alamos stands as a symbol of Oppenheimer’s legacy, housing one of the nation’s premier national laboratories and boasting the highest percentage of people with doctorate degrees in the U.S.

Oppenheimer’s influence is evident throughout Los Alamos, with a street bearing his name and an IPA named in his honor at a local brewery. The city embraces its scientific legacy, showcasing his handwritten notes and ID card in a museum exhibit. Los Alamos National Laboratory employees played a significant role in the film, contributing as extras and engaging in enlightening discussions during breaks.

The “Oppenheimer” Movie

Director Christopher Nolan’s perspective on the Trinity Test and its profound impact is evident in his approach to “Oppenheimer.” He has described the event as an extraordinary moment in human history and expressed his desire to immerse the audience in the pivotal moment when the button was pushed. Nolan’s dedication to bringing historical accuracy and emotional depth to the screen is evident as he draws inspiration from Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

For Nolan, Oppenheimer’s story is a potent blend of dreams and nightmares, capturing the complexity and consequences of the Manhattan Project. As the film reaches global audiences, it also offers a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the downwinders in New Mexico, whose lives were forever altered by the legacy of nuclear weapons testing.

The Oppenheimer Festival and Beyond

Los Alamos is determined to use the Oppenheimer Festival as an opportunity to educate visitors about the true stories behind the film’s events. The county’s “Project Oppenheimer” initiative, launched in early 2023, encompasses forums, documentaries, art installations, and exhibits that delve into the scientific contributions of the laboratory and the social implications of the Manhattan Project.

A special area during the festival will facilitate discussions about the movie, fostering a deeper understanding of the community’s history. The county aims to continue revisiting and discussing the legacy of the Manhattan Project, ensuring that the impact of this pivotal moment in history is never forgotten.

As “Oppenheimer” takes audiences on an emotional journey, it serves as a reminder that every historical event carries with it complex and multifaceted implications. The movie may celebrate the scientific achievements of the past, but it also illuminates the urgent need to recognize and address the human cost that persists to this day.


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