THE diocese of Portsmouth has defended the transgender policy of Church of England schools after a Christian couple on the Isle of Wight removed their two sons from a C of E primary school because it had allowed boys to wear dresses.
Nigel and Sally Rowe withdrew their six-year-old son last week at the start of the new school year to be home-schooled, pending a legal review of the decision to allow its pupils to dress gender fluidly. “The suggestion that gender is fluid conflicts sharply with our Christian beliefs as a family,” Mr Rowe said.
“At six years of age, children are exploring all sorts of new ideas and feelings. They do not have the emotional stability or maturity to make any life-changing decision, even if there was one to be made. This time we really felt that we had to challenge the school.”
The parents had previously removed their other, eldest son, who is now eight, two years ago, after another pupil began to identify as a girl, and was treated as a girl by the school from that time.
Mrs Rowe explained: “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.”
The school, which cannot be named to protect the children involved, replied stating that a refusal to acknowledge transgender or gender-fluid pupils constituted “transphobic behaviour” and was not in the best interests of the child.
It continued: “Additionally, when a parent or carer raises a concern about the feelings of their child when spending time in the company of a transgender-identified pupil, support work is aimed at answering the question: ‘How can we make your child feel better?’ rather than compromising the rights of the transgender child.”
Mr Rowe said that he had been “shocked by the suggestion, especially from a church school, that just because we question the notion that a six-year-old boy can really become a girl, we are ‘transphobic’. I cannot contemplate my son being disciplined and stigmatised as a bully simply because he believes that a six-year-old born as a boy, is actually a boy.”
The director of education for the diocese of Portsmouth, Jeff Williams, responded this week: “Church of England schools are inclusive environments where pupils learn to respect diversity of all kinds. Like any other state school, our schools comply with the legal requirements of the Equalities Act 2010.
“Among other things, this requires schools to accept the wishes of children and their families with regard to gender identity. It would be unlawful for any of our schools to do otherwise.”
The couple are being represented by the Christian Legal Centre.