A teacher has been suspended and could face the sack after he ‘accidentally’ called a transgender pupil a ‘girl’ in class when the student identifies as a boy.
Joshua Sutcliffe, 27, who teaches maths at a state secondary school in Oxfordshire, said ‘Well done girls’ to the teenager and a friend when he spotted them working hard.
He apologised when corrected by the pupil, but six weeks later he was suspended from teaching after the pupil’s mother lodged a complaint.
Following an investigation, he has been summoned to a formal disciplinary hearing this week to face misconduct charges for ‘misgendering’.
According to documents seen by The Mail on Sunday, he also faces claims that he is breaching equality policies by referring to the pupil by name rather than as ‘he’ or ‘him’.
The £30,000-a-year teacher said he was ‘distraught’ and had been reduced to tears as teaching was his life, and he branded the actions of the school as ‘political correctness gone mad’.
Mr Sutcliffe, a maths graduate who gained his teaching qualifications at Exeter University, said he had no official instructions about how to address the student, but along with other staff decided to use the pupil’s chosen first name.
However, he has admitted that, as a Christian, he avoided using male pronouns such as ‘he’ and ‘him’.
He believed this was consistent with the school’s code of conduct and equality policies to show respect and tolerance, and he said he had encountered no problems with this.
He said he thought no more about the incident until the week before last when, after a parents’ evening, he was unexpectedly called to the head’s office to be told there had been a ‘transgender complaint’ against him and that he was suspended from teaching while it was investigated.
He was told to come to the school and sit in the staff room preparing work, but he was not allowed to discuss the situation with colleagues.
He later discovered that the pupil’s family had claimed he had not only ‘misgendered’ the pupil but had unfairly given the pupil a disproportionate number of detentions for poor behaviour, though this later claim was not upheld during the investigation.
It is understood that the family’s main concern was that Mr Sutcliffe was picking on their child and they would not have complained about misgendering on its own as they are supporters of free speech.
Mr Sutcliffe said: ‘I was absolutely shocked to be told by the head that I was under investigation. I didn’t know what was happening. It was surreal, Kafkaesque.
‘I said it was only one incident for which I had apologised, but he insisted the investigation would go ahead.
‘I had always tried to respect the pupil and keep a professional attitude as well as my integrity, but it seemed to me that the school was trying to force me to adhere to its liberal, Leftish agenda.’
Mr Sutcliffe assumed the investigation would be brief and he would soon be back in the classroom, but he was questioned for an hour on the day after the meeting with the head and again last Monday, and was then sent a letter telling him to attend a formal disciplinary hearing this Wednesday, attended by the head and three governors.
He said: ‘I have never been trained to deal with this sort of thing. I felt completely out of my depth and intimidated.’
Documents seen by The Mail on Sunday show the investigation also heard uncorroborated claims that Mr Sutcliffe had made several other references to the pupil as a ‘girl’ and had inappropriately discussed religious issues in his maths lessons, which he denies.
He said he had raised religious issues such as the anniversary of the Reformation in his general tutor group, in which he encourages older pupils to discuss topical issues in the news, but not during maths classes.
Mr Sutcliffe, a pastor at an evangelical church in Oxford, also said that several years ago he had started a voluntary Bible club during lunchtimes at the school which had been well attended.
But this had been shut down earlier this year after he had answered a student’s question on marriage by saying the Bible described it as being between a man and a woman, prompting a complaint about homophobia.
He said he had told senior staff carrying out the ‘misgender’ investigation that his private belief was that it was not wrong to call a person born a female a girl, but he would never do that publicly because he was a professional.
He added, however, that he did not feel that he should be made to use the pronouns ‘he’ or ‘him’ and that to force him to do so was a breach of his human rights.
The investigation concluded that the ‘misgendering’ of the pupil and ‘avoidance of using gendered pronouns contravenes the school’s code of conduct with regard to demonstrating an awareness of sexual and cultural diversity of students and use of insensitive comments towards young people’ and ‘the use of religious comments in maths lessons demonstrates a failure to comply with school policies.’
The assistant head leading the investigation recommended that both were matters of misconduct that should be dealt with under the disciplinary policy.
Mr Sutcliffe said: ‘I have been shocked and saddened by the actions of the school, which, in my opinion, reflect an increasing trend of Christians being marginalised in the public square, and unpopular beliefs silenced.
‘While the suggestion that gender is fluid conflicts sharply with my Christian beliefs, I recognise my responsibility as a teacher and Christian to treat each of my pupils with respect.
‘I have balanced these factors by using the pupil’s chosen name, and although I did not intentionally refer to the pupil as a “girl”, I do not believe it is unreasonable to call someone a girl if they were born a girl.’
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which is supporting Mr Sutcliffe, added: ‘This is one of a large number of cases we are encountering where teachers are finding themselves silenced or punished if they refuse to fall in line with the current transgender fad.’
The former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit said: ‘It seems to me this is a mad world when someone is disciplined for stating a biological fact.’
The head said it would not be appropriate to comment on confidential staff disciplinary matters.
Source: Daily Mail
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