Council ditches trans guidance on lavatories after girl’s victory The Times

The original article is here.

A council has become the first in Britain to scrap guidance urging schools to allow transgender pupils to choose which lavatories they use after a 13-year-old girl challenged it at the High Court.

Oxfordshire county council backed down as it prepared to fight a judicial review over the lawfulness of its “trans toolkit”, which the girl said infringed on her right to privacy.

The council had vowed to contest the case, saying that it “utterly refuted” parents’ objections that it put children at risk. A judge found that the lawfulness of the guidance was “sufficiently arguable” and it could go to a full hearing.

The authority’s 50-page Trans Inclusions Toolkit, covering 493 schools in the county, said that youngsters who questioned their gender could use the single-sex school lavatory or changing facility that most closely aligned with their identity. It said that “as far as possible, trans children . . . should be able to sleep in dorms appropriate to their gender identity” and that trans pupils could do PE lessons with girls or boys.

The girl said that the guidance gave her “no right to privacy from the opposite sex”, adding that she was “worried about girls in other schools around the country who have these guidelines”.

Her lawyer, Paul Conrathe, from Sinclairslaw, said: “[The document] plainly misrepresented the law by assuming that an array of gender identities had protection under the Equality Act. They do not.

“The toolkit advised that biological boys could access girls’ toilets, changing rooms and dormitories on residential trips. Rather than protect and promote the welfare of children, it exposed girls, in particular, to a greater risk of harm. The High Court has already considered the toolkit and ruled that it is arguable that it is unlawful. Oxfordshire safeguarding board have done the right thing in withdrawing it. It was plainly legally indefensible.”

At least a dozen councils, including Warwickshire and Barnsley, have issued similar guidance, backed by trans lobby groups. Parents forced Warwickshire to suspend its trans advice last summer after protesting that it “discounted” the rights of their daughters. The council is reviewing it.

Tracy Shaw, 46, an Oxfordshire parent, said: “I think other parents will look at what’s been achieved in this case and realise there’s a legal route for them also to challenge guidance in their counties and schools.”

Victoria Edwards, who raised more than £22,000 for the case through crowdfunding, added: “I’m pleased that OCC have withdrawn the toolkit. I’m disappointed, however, that it has taken a 13-year-old girl, a crowdfunding campaign and a High Court judge granting a judicial review to uphold the privacy, dignity and safety of Oxfordshire’s schoolchildren.”

Tanya Carter, of Safe Schools Alliance UK, which backed the challenge, welcomed the withdrawal, but added: “We remain deeply concerned at the widespread undermining of child safeguarding and misrepresentation of the Equality Act that this case has revealed.”

Oxfordshire council said that it was awaiting gender guidance for schools from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is two years overdue. A spokesman said: “As we will be adopting this new national guidance, we have taken the decision to withdraw our toolkit and to withdraw from the judicial review.”