Local council may be sued over shared school lavatories The Sunday Times 14.12.19

The original article is here.

Parents, teachers and children are to sue a council unless it withdraws guidance to schools on how to handle youngsters questioning their gender identity.

The case could affect all schools as they grapple with a surge in pupils wanting to be identified as girls rather than boys and vice versa.

The advice from Oxfordshire county council’s Trans Inclusion Toolkit for Schools and Education Settings 2019 tells schools that transgender pupils may use the school lavatories and changing rooms of the gender they feel themselves to be.

It says “as far as possible, trans children . . . should be able to sleep in dorms appropriate to their gender identity” on school trips, and take part in PE lessons with girls or boys, depending on how they identify. It also discourages teachers from disclosing to parents that a child may be struggling with their gender identity.

This weekend the council was issued with a legal letter threatening a judicial review unless it withdraws the guidance by January 3.

The letter says the rights of girls to preserve their dignity and privacy has not been sufficiently considered.

The action would be brought by Vicki Edwards, mother of a 12-year-old boy; Miss A, on behalf of her 13-year-old daughter, who attends a girls’ school; and Miss C, a teacher and mother.

They are backed by the Safe Schools Alliance UK, a group of parents, teachers and professionals that is raising money for the case. Its spokeswoman, Tanya Carter, said the guidance compelled schools “to allow male pupils to share changing rooms, toilets and dorm rooms on residential trips with female pupils — without parents’ knowledge or permission. It also allows males to take part in sports alongside females.

“This is in direct opposition to all safeguarding protocols, which recommend single-sex provision should be made for children over the age of eight when sleeping, using toilets and changing, and that contact sports should be segregated after puberty for safety reasons.”

She added: “The guidance also indicates that teachers failing to affirm the ‘gender identity’ of their pupils may face disciplinary action, and [assumes] any parent doing anything other than unquestioningly affirming the chosen ‘gender identity’ of their child should be viewed as a source of harm. This is extremely alarming.”

Edwards said: “Our children need to be taught to value honesty, facts and truth. We cannot teach them to develop healthy boundaries if schools are forcing them to ignore their own instincts and deny reality under threat of sanction and ostracism.”

The council said it was considering its response but was “confident the revised toolkit will provide helpful guidance to schools looking to support this potentially vulnerable group of young people.” It added: “We utterly refute the suggestion we are failing to safeguard children.”

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