Christian teacher banned from teaching for refusing to call trans student by preferred pronoun23 May 2023 Issued by: Christian Legal Centre
In an outcome believed to be the first of its kind, a Christian maths teacher has been banned by the Secretary of State for ‘unprofessional conduct’ and ‘bringing the profession into disrepute’ for refusing to use the preferred pronouns of a female student who identified as transgender.
The Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) professional conduct panel, backed by the Department for Education acting on behalf of Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, has ruled that Joshua Sutcliffe, 33, was guilty of unprofessional conduct and has banned him from teaching in any capacity indefinitely.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Mr Sutcliffe, recently married with a small baby, will appeal.
Following an investigation, the TRA commenced a prosecution and after a 7-day hearing recommended a prohibition order removing Joshua from the classroom. The order can be reviewed at the earliest after two years.
Despite Joshua’s pleas for leniency and hearing good character evidence from two parents of children he had tutored, the department of the Secretary of State for Education, (SoS) dismissed Mr Sutcliffe’s positive contribution to teaching concluding “that a prohibition order is proportionate and in the public interest” in order to maintain “confidence in the profession.”
The TRA judgment, on reaching the decision to ban Mr Sutcliffe concluded that by refusing to refer to a girl as a boy and show “full remorse” for doing so, that they “have had to consider the matter from the point of view of an “ordinary intelligent and well-informed citizen.”
Concluding the statement on behalf of the SoS, the ruling said “This means that Mr Joshua Sutcliffe is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England. He may apply for the prohibition order to be set aside, but not until 2025, 2 years from the date of this order at the earliest. This is not an automatic right to have the prohibition order removed. If he does apply, a panel will meet to consider whether the prohibition order should be set aside. Without a successful application, Mr Joshua Sutcliffe remains prohibited from teaching indefinitely.”
In 2017, Mr Sutcliffe made headlines after taking legal action against The Cherwell School in Oxford, after he was suspended and eventually dismissed for gross misconduct for allegedly ‘misgendering’ a female student, ‘Pupil A’, that self-identified as a boy.
In 2017, when Mr Sutcliffe was 27 and faced the dilemma in his maths class of whether to follow the demands of a trans identifying child or follow his conscience, he decided to only call the child by the child’s name and try not to use pronouns.
He had been given no warning or guidelines on how to deal with the child in question. At a school training level he had received no guidance or training other than from a brief presentation from Stonewall, who the Department for Education no longer recommend
Mr Sutcliffe has said that as soon as he voiced his Christian beliefs at The Cherwell School, where he had worked as a popular and high-performing teacher, he became ‘a marked man’ with every part of his public and private life subsequently coming under scrutiny. He had run a very successful lunchtime Bible Club which ran daily.
After leaving The Cherwell School, Mr Sutcliffe moved schools but what had happened soon became known by the pupils in his new school, St Aloysius, North London. After a year in the school, in November 2019, Joshua felt forced to resign over Christian views he posted on his personal YouTube channel which critiqued Islam.
Despite legal issues between Mr Sutcliffe and both schools being settled, he was later pursued and investigated by the regulatory body, the Teaching Regulation Agency, culminating in a professional conduct panel hearing into a series of allegations made against him.
As well as accusations of refusing to use a pupils’ preferred pronouns, he was convicted of other allegations that included Mr Sutcliffe saying that he did not believe in gay marriage in response to a question from a student.
Further, he was convicted of failing to provide an alternative viewpoint to students when he allegedly showed a video on masculinity by leading global conservative non-profit channel, PragerU. The video has 10 million views and PragerU has three million subscribers on YouTube.
He was acquitted of a number of allegations including an allegation that he was guilty of unprofessional conduct because he uploaded a YouTube video critiquing Islam.
‘I borrowed her calculator’
Concerning the ‘misgendering’ and pronouns allegations, the panel in their recommendations to the SoS said that they ‘recognised that Pupil A is a transgender male’, despite being a biological female. They said that by ‘misgendering’, Mr Sutcliffe had shown Pupil A ‘a lack of dignity and respect.’
The panel sided with the evidence from the pupils who gave evidence for the TRA as ‘on the balance of probabilities’ and it was proved that Mr Sutcliffe had repeatedly ‘misgendered’ Pupil A, which he always denied.
Evidence was also accepted by the panel that Mr Sutcliffe had ‘misgendered’ Pupil A on another occasion in the classroom when he was alleged to have said: “I borrowed her calculator.”
The panel concluded: ‘Given the evidence of the pupils that Mr. Sutcliffe had failed to use Pupil A’s pronoun on various occasions, and Mr Sutcliffe’s own admission that he had failed to use pupil A’s pronoun on one occasion, the panel found that it was more probable than not that Mr Sutcliffe had failed to use Pupil A’s preferred pronoun in the classroom during teaching on one or more occasions.’
‘The panel therefore concluded on balance that by failing to use pupil A’s preferred pronouns, Mr Sutcliffe had failed to uphold Pupil A’s dignity and respect and failed to safeguard Pupil A’s wellbeing.’
The panel ruled that Mr Sutcliffe had also failed in his safeguarding duty to Pupil A by appearing on ITV’s This Morning to discuss his story.
Making this ruling, the panel contradict a recent scathing report by the Policy Exchange into the extent of transgender ideology in UK schools.
The report said regarding sex and gender issues in schools that:
“Safeguarding principles are being routinely disregarded in many secondary schools, which are neglecting their safeguarding responsibilities in favour of a set of contested beliefs in a way that risk jeopardising child wellbeing and safety.”
The report said that: “A generation of children are being let down, because well-established safeguarding standards are being compromised.”’
The allegation that Mr Sutcliffe had said that he disagreed with gay marriage, after being asked for his views by a pupil, was also found to be proven by the panel, but did not constitute a failure to safeguard pupils.
The panel also concluded that Mr Sutcliffe had shown a lack of professionalism and had not presented another point of view when he showed a PragerU video on ‘Make Men Masculine Again’ in form time at St Aloysius Mr Sutcliffe denied showing the video in form time but the panel believed the pupil.
The panel ruled:
‘The panel found that Mr. Sutcliffe had failed to provide a balanced view or an opportunity for pupils to discuss any alternative views when showing the PragerU video titled make men masculine again.
‘The panel found that this failure to provide context or debate, risked the view being perceived by the pupils as the sole position on the definition of masculinity.
However, ‘The panel found that Mr Sutcliffe failed to take a good account of potential negative impact on pupils who did not agree with all the claims of the views of masculinity portrayed in the video.’
The allegation that Mr Sutcliffe had recommended a video to pupils which said ‘Muhammed is a false prophet’ was dismissed by the panel as it had not even been uploaded to Mr Sutcliffe’s personal YouTube channel while he was working at St Aloysius school.
Concluding their judgment, however, the panel described Mr Sutcliffe as ‘intolerant’ and said that taken as a whole it was ‘satisfied that Mr. Sutcliffe was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.’
The panel and the SoS has made the ruling despite the imminent publication of new government guidelines on transgender issues in schools.
In January, the Telegraph reported that the guidelines are likely to advise teachers and schools that allowing pupils to ‘socially transition’ and use preferred pronouns contrary to their sex, can cause ‘major psychological harm’.
The ruling against Mr Sutcliffe is also at odds with Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan’s recent defence of a teacher at a private school who was accused of ‘misgendering’ after saying ‘good afternoon girls’ at an all-girls school.
The panel also rejected expert evidence from Sex Matters Executive Director, Maya Forstater, a Christian theologian and backing from parents and pupils taught by Mr Sutcliffe.
One parent, whose daughter had been tutored by Mr Sutcliffe, told the panel: “Joshua was very good at his job and teaching. Patient, kind and considerate, he was respectful and good at explaining things. My daughter enjoyed being taught by him and it was a very positive experience.
“I have never witnessed him being unkind to anyone.”
Another parent, whose son has been tutored by Mr Sutcliffe for five years said: “Joshua helped my son become an A* student for GCSE Maths. Joshua has never been inappropriate in any way. He is a gentleman, he is considerate, he is trustworthy, professional and good time keeping. He is like a mentor to my son. He is very focused on tutoring my son to make sure he really understands Maths.”
‘Banned from the profession I love’
Responding to the outcome, Mr Sutcliffe, who now plans to appeal, said: “I am devastated by the panel’s ruling and will appeal.
“Based on this ruling, every teacher is at risk if they share their beliefs and views in the classroom. If a teacher had shown or recommended a video from a liberal YouTube platform, would they have been treated as I have?
“I believe affirming children who is in gender distress in the classroom is psychologically damaging for them. I refuse to go against my conscience and cause a child harm and cannot apologise for that. I am backed by the Policy Exchange report, and even the government, yet they have signed off my ban.
“The TRA wanted me to capitulate and say that I was wrong. I have been mercilessly punished for refusing to do so.
“Indoctrinating children across the country to celebrate and promote Pride, to fly the Pride flag is celebrated, but if Christian beliefs are raised or expressed in the classroom, you face having your career and life torn apart.
“I have been bullied and pursued and have had every part of my life scrutinised for expressing my Christian faith and biological truth.
“This decision is putting my family and I at risk. I have a young son and everything that is happening is affecting him.
“Mathematics has always been a great joy of mine; my teaching record is exemplary, and I was always respectful to everyone. From the beginning, however, this case has not been about my ability to teach but about me being a Christian and believing in the gospel and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which has supported Mr Sutcliffe’s case, said:
“This is a tipping point. The government needs to step in and restore some sanity into the teaching profession. Similar action needs to be taken regarding the Teaching Regulation Agency.
“I am very concerned by the way regulatory bodies are now punishing Christian teachers simply for stating the truth.
“The Christian viewpoint on sexual ethics and morality is no longer being tolerated in the classroom and teachers who openly express it are having their ability to teach removed by the regulatory body. This is serious and sinister.
“Removal from teaching usually involves serious misconduct and the crossing of boundaries such as teachers having sexual affairs with pupils or some serious criminal activity. Nothing could be further from Joshua’s situation.
“From the beginning, Joshua has faced viewpoint discrimination from the schools, the TRA and now the Secretary of State.
“The TRA has targeted an exceptional teacher because his Christian beliefs do not fall in line with the new LGBTQ moral code which will not tolerate any dissent. This is deeply illiberal.
“The backing of the panel’s recommendations by the Secretary of State is baffling considering the urgent concern coming from the government about the extent of transgender ideology and harmful gender identity teaching in UK schools.
“For loving Jesus, speaking truth in his personal time, and responding to questions from students on the Christian faith, he has been hounded out of the teaching profession.
“Joshua will appeal, and we will stand with him for as long as it takes to get justice.”