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New U.K. draft guidelines say teachers should not be forced to use students’ transgender pronouns

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CNA Staff, Dec 22, 2023 / 12:27 pm (CNA).

Draft guidelines issued this week by the U.K. Department for Education (DfE) state that schools should only support student pronoun changes in rare cases and that teachers should not be forced to use the pronouns chosen by students identifying as transgender.

At the same time, the proposed rules also direct that parents should be informed if their child requests a “social transition” at school, with authorities instructed to give the views of parents “great weight” when determining how to respond in such cases.

The guidance was issued by the British government as part of a “consultation” to determine whether the proposed rules will “help to support schools and colleges, teachers and leaders to make considered and lawful decisions” regarding children who claim to be transgender.

The document states in part that “agreeing to a child’s request” for different pronouns is a “significant decision.” Younger children, the guidelines say, “should not have different pronouns” from their sex-based ones.

For older children, schools “should only agree to a change of pronouns if they are confident that the benefit to the individual child outweighs the impact on the school community,” the document says. 

“On these rare occasions, no teacher or pupil should be compelled to use these preferred pronouns,” the guidelines advise, and a child’s differing pronouns “should not prevent teachers from referring to children collectively as ‘girls’ or ‘boys,’ even in the presence of a child that has been allowed to change their pronouns.”

“In all cases, bullying of any child must not be tolerated,” the guidance adds. “No child should be sanctioned for honest mistakes when adapting to a new way of interacting with another pupil.”

The guidance also states that, in cases where a child requests a “social transition” to a transgender identity, schools should “make parents aware of the situation” and offer assistance in finding support resources.

“It is important that the views of the child’s parents should carry great weight and be properly considered,” the guidance says. “We would expect parental consent to be required in the vast majority of cases.”

The draft guidelines also state that spaces such as bathrooms and changing rooms should be strictly maintained as single-sex. 

“As a default, all children should use the toilets, showers, and changing facilities designated for their biological sex,” the guidelines state. 

Children who feel “distress” at using facilities that correspond to their sex should be given “alternative arrangements” that do not violate the single-sex environments of those spaces, the document says. 

British Minister for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch told the BBC this week that under the guidelines, schools “do not have to accept a child’s request to socially transition.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, meanwhile, told the news service that parents’ views “must also be at the heart of all decisions made about their children.”

The public consultation over the guidelines will last until March of 2024, the British government says. 

The U.K. is among the European countries that in recent years have pulled back from embracing transgender ideology, particularly regarding children. 

England’s National Health Service last year issued new guidance for the treatment of children with gender dysphoria, warning that the condition is often a temporary “phase” and restricting the use of puberty blockers and sex-altering hormones.

That guidance came after the U.K. moved to close what was the world’s largest child-gender clinic, Tavistock Clinic, due to concerns raised by an independent review and complaints from patient families.

Multiple other European countries including Sweden and Norway have likewise moved to restrict transgender procedures for minors, though Spain earlier this year passed a law that will allow transgender genital surgery and hormonal treatments from the age of 16 without parental consent.

In July of this year, a group of 21 doctors from countries including Finland, France, South Africa, and the United States wrote in a public letter that the ongoing push to provide young children with transgender “transition” procedures is unsupported by current evidence and that medical officials should shift their approaches to managing youth gender dysphoria. 

The doctors in that letter argued that the risks of cross-sex hormone usage for youths “are significant and include sterility, lifelong dependence on medication, and the anguish of regret.”

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