Christian parents opposed to school trans pronoun policy granted judicial review in UK

Nigel and Sally Rowe will continue taking legal action in roughly three months in the first case in which the United Kingdom's High Court will conduct a judicial review on basis of alleged harm transgender affirming policies may have on primary school children.
Nigel and Sally Rowe will continue taking legal action in roughly three months in the first case in which the United Kingdom's High Court will conduct a judicial review on basis of alleged harm transgender affirming policies may have on primary school children. | Christian Legal Centre

A judge in the United Kingdom has granted a request for judicial review filed by two Christian parents who say they were forced to pull their children out of a church-run school over policies requiring teachers and classmates to use the preferred names and pronouns of trans-identified students.

After the Department for Education refused to intervene in their case, Nigel Rowe, 48, and his wife, Sally, 47, will have their case heard by the U.K. High Court, Queen’s Bench Division within the next three months, according to the Christian Legal Centre

The review was granted by Lord Justice Lane, who argued that the case is reviewable because it deals with matters of education, which is a responsibility of the state. 

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When children began cross-dressing in their 6-year-old son’s Church of England primary school in the Isle of Wright in 2017, the Rowes said they were given the choice of affirming transgender ideology or being labeled as “transphobic.” The couple believes gender identity affirmation is “harmful” for children. 

The couple felt they had no choice but to educate their child at home because their son’s school said in a July 2017 letter that not affirming students' preferred pronouns and names is a form of “transphobic behavior.” 

“We are delighted and relieved that after a four-year battle our crucial case will be heard,” wrote Nigel and Sally Rowe in a joint statement provided by Christian Legal Centre, which represents the couple. “Many try to make light of this issue by suggesting it is just about boys dressing up. This case is about a dangerous ideology that is now firmly embedded in schools, local authorities, and Church of England leadership, and which is causing serious long-term harm to thousands of children.”

Through their legal case, the Rowes are pushing for Christian beliefs on the issue of gender to be respected and tolerated in state education and for the removal of the 2015 Cornwall Schools Transgender Guidance

The guideline was compiled by the Cornwall Council, the Intercom Trust, Devon & Cornwall Police and headteachers. The guidance purports to be the first document in the U.K. to instruct teachers and schools on how to be inclusive of trans-identified students. 

The Cornwall Schools Transgender Guidance includes information for schools about how to implement gender-neutral bathrooms. The Christian Legal Centre warns the document encourages schools to accept cross-dressing and gender transition without hesitation and contains links to pro-trans advocacy groups such as Mermaids.

Since the policy’s inception, more schools and local authorities have adopted the guidelines for their educational and occupational environments, including the Department of Education, which accepted the policy in 2018.  

“Six-year-old children have to be reminded to brush their teeth, let alone make decisions about whether they are a boy or a girl. It is therefore immoral to think that they can make such life-changing decisions at such a young age. As a society, we are called to protect children, and these guidelines and the culture they are embedding in primary schools is achieving the opposite,” the Rowes argue. 

Sally Rowe said that since homeschooling her children, she has had many positive experiences. However, she said she had to give up her own teaching career to teach her children.

The Rowes said that they also had to pull their eldest son from school in 2015. They claim the oldest son was treated the same way by the school after a boy in his class decided to dress and identify as a female.  

"There was no consultation with other parents. Our son, like others, was struggling with starting school life, and with the school's suggestion that young children can change gender. So we felt that we could no longer allow him to attend the school," Sally Rowe said in a 2015 statement

Following their experience with their youngest son in 2017, the Rowes said they met with the headteacher of the Church of England primary school. The headteacher told them that she could lose her job if she didn’t comply with the guidelines and that if a child wants to transition, then “we just have to accept it,” according to the Christian Legal Centre.

The Rowes followed up their meeting with a letter to the school requesting to know how they plan to support every child in the school environment when another child wants to be associated with a different gender. They also contacted the Diocese of Portsmouth and the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer. 

The school told the Rowes in the 2017 letter that policies are in place to tackle “transphobic behavior.” 

Christian Legal Centre Chief Executive Andrea Williams praised the high court’s decision to accept the judicial review. 

“We are pleased that the government will face a Judicial Review on this crucial case for parents and primary school children across the country,” Williams said in a statement. “This case goes to the heart of what education is and how primary school children must be protected from harmful and unscientific transgender ideologies in every part of education.”

Graham Rogers, a consultant psychologist with 30 years of experience, conducted a research report on the dangers transgender-affirming policies can potentially have on youth.

While the Cornwall guidelines place an emphasis on equality, Rogers contends that the policy “ignores research and the needs of young people.”

“The policy [shows] little or no appreciation for the safety and welfare of children and adolescent or their developmental needs. The approach of the guidance was ‘as if’ the children were fully mature adults,” Rogers wrote.

“[Guidance] shows no understanding of the effects of puberty or the process of adolescent development; or its role in this change. [It] appears to miss the role of child and adolescent development, the normal variations in gender and sexual development or the concept of ‘safeguarding.’”

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