Teacher reveals students’ horror at Tories forcing schools to ‘out’ trans kids: ‘My mum can’t know!’
On Monday at 8am, the last thing Jo* expected was for one of her pupils to run into her classroom in floods of tears.
“My mum can’t know I am trans,” Sam* cried, begging Jo to email their head of year and say the name they use at school is “just a nickname”.
Sam, like many trans youngsters, had read news stories detailing leaked government guidance which could see teachers forced to ‘out’ trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming pupils to their parents or guardians.
On 19 July, education secretary Gillian Keegan confirmed reports were correct, and that the government thinks “parental consent” is paramount when it comes to children expressing their gender identity at school.
While the guidance is expected to have exceptions for children believed to be at risk of “significant harm”, it seems set to ignore the fact that families could have no safeguarding risks flagged to a school but simultaneously be extremely – potentially violently – transphobic.
*Names have been changed
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‘Safeguarding Tory interests’ – not children
For some students, being outed to their caregivers could be met with indifference or denial while for others, it could result in homelessness and psychological, physical and emotional abuse – and this is what concerns Jo.
“There are so many vulnerable children in education who need so much support, so much help, and this just isn’t something that is frankly needed in the education system, at all,” she told PinkNews.
The educator said that the proposed policies would not safeguard children at all. In her opinion, they would do the opposite: “As a teacher, my number one priority is safeguarding and I can’t really understand how this has anything to do with safeguarding students.
“It seems to just be safeguarding Tory interests.”
She added: “I can only see it increasing transphobia, increasing the fear around being part of the LGBTQ+ community and making students not feel safe in school.
“How can students who don’t feel safe at home, whose only safe place is education, how can they see education as a safe place when they have this worry hanging over them?”
As outlined in the leaked guidance, ‘triggers’ would be used by staff to determine if a child is exploring their gender unbeknownst to their parents. This could include using a different name, pronouns or wearing different gendered elements of their uniform or clothes.
A “boy wearing a skirt” was one example cited by The Sunday Times.
“Even wearing a skirt to school, using a different name, all of those things, are consequential; they are not a neutral thing to do,” a Department for Education source told the Rupert Murdoch-owned title.
For Jo, guidance like this is a slippery slope as it could be easily misinterpreted by teachers, resulting in cis pupils reported to their parents for even just changing their fashion sense.
“That’s the thing with guidance, It’s only a guide. It doesn’t tell you where the boundaries are,” she notes.
“I can only see this getting worse. If this policy goes into effect, I can’t see it as being a one off incident,” Jo explained, “It is like one foot through the door.
“Homophobia and other things will actually rise as a consequence.”
Conservative and Labour party leaders share anti-trans views
Education secretary Gillian Keegan told Robert Peston on Wednesday (19 July) that the government intends to bring forward guidance on school pupils coming out as trans. It came after reports a proposed “blanket ban” on social transitioning in schools had been flagged as unlawful by the attorney general.
“We do think it’s important that parents are involved in the discussion,” Keegan said, confirming the government would not meet its own deadline to publish advice before the summer holidays.
She added that the intervention would come as guidance, not legislation, because the former is “quicker”.
It seems unlikely that any measure will meet much resistance from the opposition. Labour leader Keir Starmer came under fire at the beginning of April for appearing to back outing trans children to their parents.
“Look, of course I’d want to know. I say that as a parent. I would want to know and I think the vast majority of parents would want to know,” Starmer said.
“That’s why we have to have national guidance on it and they should try to make it cross-party, because it’s not helpful to parents or schools to have this as just a toxic divide when what’s needed is practical, common sense advice.”
Previous reports have suggested single-sex schools could be given legal protection if they wish to reject a trans pupil, and that trans girls would be barred from contact and competitive sports with other girls, as well as changing rooms and shower facilities which match their gender identity.
Department for Education ignores concerns on safeguarding
When approached for comment about the safeguarding concerns around the proposed guidance, the Department for Education instead provided PinkNews with background information on the government reviewing Relationships, Sex, Health and Education (RSHE) lessons.
Education secretary Keegan is “deeply concerned by reports of inappropriate relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) lessons”, the department said.
“That’s why she has brought forward an urgent review that will look at how RSHE should be taught, protecting children and reassuring parents, written to schools to remind them of their duty to show parents materials used in lessons, and is working with the minister for women and equalities to publish guidance for schools for the summer term on how to respond to children who are questioning their gender identity.
“The RSHE review will give us the opportunity to consider the evidence and provide clarity on what is appropriate to be taught in schools, alongside ensuring that schools know they must be transparent with parents.”
When pressed for a comment directly addressing the at-the-time leaked guidance, the department failed to respond.
‘Badly thought out’ guidance will put children ‘at risk’
In response to the leaks, LGBTQ+ groups quickly slammed the proposed policies, highlighting the danger they could pose to young people.
Lukasz Konieczka, executive director of the Mosaic LGBTQ+ Young Persons Trust, told PinkNews there are many reasons a child may not come out to their family.
“Family rejection is a huge risk, leading to the young person entering already stretched care system and, in the worst case scenario, so-called honour-based violence.
“Such badly thought out guidelines will confuse schools and put young people at risk,” Konieczka said.
Stonewall echoed these sentiments, telling PinkNews: “LGBTQ+ children and young people deserve the same opportunity to thrive as any other child, and it is key that schools are respectful and supportive.
“We understand that the government seeks to create guidance for schools to have ‘across-the-board’ solutions, but this must not be fuelled by yet another cynical attempt to stoke a politically motivated ‘culture war’, at the expense of trans people’s safety and dignity.”
As an LGBTQ+ person themselves, Jo noted how the guidance feels reminiscent of Section 28 and the constraints that legislation placed on both teachers and pupils.
“It breaks my heart”, Jo told PinkNews, explaining that Sam and other students spent the weekend “stressed” and having “sleepless nights” over the potential new policy and how it would impact them.
“I genuinely have no idea what’s possible net benefit this will have. I can’t see any benefit at all.
“It’s just going to cause alienation and isolation of the students.”
Originally published 19 April.
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