I called trans boy a girl by mis­take... and it may cost me my job as a teacher

The Mail on Sunday - - News - By Jonathan Pe­tre ED­U­CA­TION CORRESPONDENT

A TEACHER has been sus­pended and could face the sack af­ter he ‘ac­ci­den­tally’ called a trans­gen­der pupil a ‘girl’ in class when the stu­dent iden­ti­fies as a boy.

Joshua Sut­cliffe, 27, who teaches maths at a state sec­ondary school in Ox­ford­shire, said ‘Well done g girls’ to the teenager and a friend when he spot­ted them work­ing hard. He apol­o­gised when cor­rected by the pupil, but six weeks later he was sus­pended from teach­ing af­ter the pupil’s mother lodged a com­plaint.

Fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he has been sum­moned to a for­mal dis­ci­plinary hear­ing this week to f ace mis­con­duct charges for ‘mis­gen­der­ing’.

Ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments seen by The Mail on Sun­day, he also faces claims that he is breach­ing equal­ity poli­cies by re­fer­ring to the pupil by name rather than as ‘he’ or ‘him’.

The £30,000-a-year teacher said he was ‘dis­traught’ and had been re­duced to tears as teach­ing was his life, and he branded the ac­tions of the school as ‘po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness gone mad’.

Mr Sut­cliffe, a maths grad­u­ate who gained his teach­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tions at Ex­eter Univer­sity, said he had no of­fi­cial in­struc­tions about how to ad­dress the stu­dent, but along with other staff de­cided to use the pupil’s cho­sen first name. How­ever, he has ad­mit­ted that, as a Chris­tian, he avoided us­ing male pro­nouns such as ‘he’ and ‘him’.

He be­lieved this was con­sis­tent with the school’s code of con­duct and equal­ity poli­cies to show re­spect and tol­er­ance, and he said he had en­coun­tered no prob­lems with this.

He said he thought no more about the in­ci­dent un­til the week be­fore last when, af­ter a par­ents’ evening, he was un­ex­pect­edly called to the head’s of­fice to be told there had been a ‘trans­gen­der com­plaint’ against him and that he was sus­pended from teach­ing while it was in­ves­ti­gated.

He was told to come to the school and sit in the staff room pre­par­ing work, but he was not al­lowed to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion with col­leagues. He later dis­cov­ered that the pupil’s fam­ily had claimed he had not only ‘mis­gen­dered’ t he pupil but had un­fairly given the pupil a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of det e nt i o ns for poor be­hav­iour, though this later claim was not up­held dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

It is un­der­stood that the fam­ily’s main con­cern was that Mr Sut­cliffe was pick­ing on their child and they would not have com­plained about mis­gen­der­ing on its own as they are sup­port­ers of free speech.

Mr Sut­cliffe said: ‘I was ab­so­lutely shocked to be told by the head that I was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. I didn’t know what was hap­pen­ing. It was sur­real, Kafkaesque. I said it was only one in­ci­dent for which I had apol­o­gised, but he in­sisted the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would go ahead.

‘I had al­ways tried to re­spect the pupil and keep a pro­fes­sional at­ti­tude as well as my in­tegrity, but it seemed to me that the school was try­ing to force me to ad­here to its lib­eral, Leftish agenda.’

Mr Sut­cliffe as­sumed the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be brief and he would soon be back in the class­room, but he was ques­tioned for an hour on the day af­ter the meet­ing with the head and again last Mon­day, and was then sent a let­ter telling him to at t end a f or­mal dis­ci­plinary hear­ing this Wed­nesd a y, at­tended by the head and three gover­nors. He said: ‘ I have never been trained to deal with this sort of

thing. I felt com­pletely out of my depth and in­tim­i­dated.’

Doc­u­ments seen by The Mail on Sun­day show the in­ves­ti­ga­tion also heard un­cor­rob­o­rated claims that Mr Sut­cliffe had made sev­eral other ref­er­ences to the pupil as a ‘girl’ and had in­ap­pro­pri­ately dis­cussed re­li­gious is­sues in his maths lessons, which he de­nies.

He said he had raised re­li­gious is­sues such as the an­niver­sary of the Re­for­ma­tion in his gen­eral tu­tor group, in which he en­cour­ages older pupils to dis­cuss top­i­cal is­sues in the news, but not dur­ing maths classes.

Mr Sut­cliffe, a pas­tor at an evan­gel­i­cal church in Ox­ford, also said I am shocked and a sad­dened by the ac­tions of the school that sev­eral years ago he had started a vol­un­tary Bi­ble club dur­ing lunchtimes at the school which had been well at­tended.

But this had been shut down ear­lier this year af­ter he had an­swered a stu­dent’s ques­tion on mar­riage by say­ing the Bi­ble de­scribed it as be­ing be­tween a man and a woman, prompt­ing a com­plaint about ho­mo­pho­bia.

He said he had told se­nior staff car­ry­ing out the ‘ mis­gen­der’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion that his pri­vate be­lief was that it was not wrong to call a per­son born a fe­male a girl, but he would never do that pub­licly be­cause he was a pro­fes­sional. He added, how­ever, that he did not feel that he should be made to use the pro­nouns ‘he’ or ‘him’ and that to force him to do so was a breach of his hu­man

rights. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion con- cluded that the ‘mis­gen­der­ing’ of the pupil and ‘avoid­ance of us­ing gen­dered pro­nouns con­tra­venes the school’s code of con­duct with re­gard t o demon­strat­ing an aware­ness of sex­ual and cul­tural diver­sity of stu­dents and use of in­sen­si­tive com­ments to­wards young peo­ple’ and ‘ the use of re­li­gious com­ments in maths lessons demon­strates a fail­ure to com­ply with school poli­cies.’

The as­sis­tant head lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion rec­om­mended that both were mat­ters of mis­con­duct that should be dealt with un­der the dis­ci­plinary pol­icy.

Mr Sut­cliffe said: ‘I have been shocked and sad­dened by the ac­tions of the school, which, in my opin­ion, re­flect an in­creas­ing trend of Chris­tians be­ing marginalised in the pub­lic square, and un­pop­u­lar be­liefs si­lenced.

‘While the sug­ges­tion that gen­der is fluid con­flicts sharply with my Chris­tian be­liefs, I recog­nise my re­spon­si­bil­ity as a teacher and Chris­tian to treat each of my pupils with re­spect. I have bal­anced these fac­tors by us­ing the pupil’s cho­sen name, and although I did not in­ten­tion­ally re­fer to the pupil as a “girl”, I do not be­lieve it is un­rea­son­able to call some­one a girl if they were born a girl.’

An­drea Wil­liams, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Chris­tian Le­gal Cen­tre which is sup­port­ing Mr Sut­cliffe, added: ‘ This is one of a large num­ber of cases we are en­coun­ter­ing where teach­ers are find­ing them­selves si­lenced or pun­ished if they refuse to fall in line with the cur­rent trans­gen­der fad.’

The for­mer Con­ser­va­tive Party chair­man Lord Teb­bit said: ‘ It seems to me this is a mad world when some­one is dis­ci­plined for stat­ing a bi­o­log­i­cal fact.’

The head said it would not be ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment on con­fi­den­tial staff dis­ci­plinary mat­ters.

PROBE: Teacher Joshua Sut­cliffe

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