A British teacher has been dismissed from his job after refusing to use a teenage pupil’s preferred pronouns. The teacher insisted he would not affirm a 17-year-old student’s gender transition because he wanted to first obtain the permission of the pupil’s parents.
Maths teacher Mr Kevin Lister, 59, was dismissed from a secondary school in Swindon, England, for “gross misconduct” after refusing to refer to a biologically female student using he/him pronouns preferred by the student and a male name during A-level classes, the Mail on Sunday has reported. Mr Lister has voiced concerns about students being able to identify under new names and pronouns without the need for parental consent first. The secondary school teacher had taught at the school for 18-years, and had enjoyed an ‘unblemished’ career until he was let go from the school earlier this month.
He is now reported to be taking legal action against his employers for unfair dismissal, and he alleges he is the victim of a “witch-hunt”. He also told the Daily Mail that he was concerned that the ‘out of the blue’ request amounted to social transition, which could lead the teenager down the path of irreversible medical treatments.
“I wanted at least to make sure that my student had parental support and was making an informed decision,” he told the Mail, adding: “As a parent myself, I would have been furious if my child had taken this step and I hadn’t been told anything.”
He said he was ‘gobsmacked’ when he approached the safeguarding officers and was told the parents would not be informed about the female student’s wish to identify as male at school. It is reported that the school’s guide to supporting trans students states that staff should “maintain confidentiality and only tell others about the person’s trans status with their permission”, prompting questions about the rights of parents.
In an interview with the Mail, we said he found himself trapped in an “impossible position”, as he tried not to refer to the student directly.
“I ended up pointing to her as politely as I could to avoid either dead-naming her or supporting transition without parental consent”, he said.
But a few weeks later, the trans student said she wanted to enter a female maths Olympiad.
Mr Lister said: “I put the names of the students on the board who wanted to take part and I put her name up on the board as being a female’s name to enter a female maths competition”.
Earlier this year, Mr Lister had accusations of ‘transphobia’ levied against him by students, which prompted a suspension in February pending an inquiry, and he was escorted off school grounds. At a disciplinary hearing last month, three complaints against him were upheld, which were that he had “subjected a gender-transitioning student” to “transphobic discrimination” and “harassment” and “refused to use” their preferred name and male pronouns.
The dismissal letter he received from the vice-principal is reported to have stated: “We acknowledge that you are entitled to your beliefs, however, it is my view that your treatment of [the student] violated his dignity”.
The letter from the VP also said he had “degraded” the student by pointing to her in class, and that he had been “insensitive” by writing her female name on the board relating to the maths Olympiad, according to the Mail.
The maths teacher denies any wrongdoing, and says he was simply trying to protect the welfare of the student.
Mr Lister has won the backing of campaigners, as well as from Tory MP Danny Kruger, who said he was “very concerned” as recent guidance from the government says the teacher had been within his rights to practise caution. Last month, then Attorney General, Suella Braverman, said the law was clear that under-18s could not legally alter their gender, so schools were therefore under no legal obligation to address children by a new pronoun.
When the Mail on Sunday approached the unnamed school for a comment, a spokesperson said: “We are unable to comment”.