Christian parents Nigel and Sally Rowe have launched legal action against the government over failures to protect their children from transgender guidelines being used not only in their sons’ Church of England primary school, but also nationally.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Nigel, 48, and his wife Sally, 46, will pursue a judicial review over the Department for Education’s (DfE) refusal to intervene in their case and its promotion of what lawyers describe as the ‘politically partisan’ Cornwall Schools Transgender Guidelines.
The policies provide schools, teachers, and governors, with guidance on how transgender ideology can be embedded into the fabric of a schools’ culture. They include how to implement gender neutral toilets, encourage schools to accept cross-dressing and gender transition without question, and include links to controversial groups such as Mermaids. Published in 2015 by campaigners for transgenderism, their legitimacy has significantly risen after being held up as best practice by other schools and local authorities, and even the Department for Education since 2018.
Experts backing the Rowes’ case have described the guidelines as leading to ‘catastrophic’ outcomes for children in primary school settings.
In 2017, the Rowes, from the Isle of Wight, were the first parents to expose the impact these policies were having in primary schools. They were given a choice by the Church of England school their sons were attending: either affirm transgenderism, which Nigel and Sally believe is harmful, or be labelled ‘transphobic’.
Because they felt unable to approve of the trans affirming approach, they were forced to leave the school. As a result, they have now been home schooling both their children for the past four years and believe they have been vindicated as the damaging impact of trans ideology in education continues to be exposed.
The decision followed their six-year-old son coming home from school confused that a boy in his class had begun inconsistently wearing a dress and identifying as a girl. Their eldest son had faced a similar issue two years previously at the same school and also had to be withdrawn. Sally has spoken of how positive the experience of home schooling has been, but also the significant sacrifices she has made, which have included giving up her teaching career to protect her children.
The Rowes believe Christian parents – and any parents who disagree with trans ideology – have been placed in an impossible situation. They either have to home school or risk their young children being indoctrinated in state education by an ideology that extensive evidence shows causes children harm.
They are calling for the Cornwall Guidelines to be overhauled and for Christian beliefs on the issue of gender to be respected and tolerated in state education.
‘Have to accept it’
Meeting with the head teacher of the Church of England primary in 2017, the Rowes were told in regards to a child transitioning gender that, “if a child wants to do that then we just have to accept it.” The headteacher added that she could lose her job if she did not follow the guidelines.
Following the meeting, the Rowes set out their concerns in a formal letter asking what measures were in place to support all children in a primary school environment when a child chooses to change their gender. They also contacted the Diocese of Portsmouth and the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer. In response, and having taken advice from the Diocese of Portsmouth and citing the Cornwall Guidelines, the school defended its behaviour.
The school said it had policies to tackle ‘transphobic behaviour’, which included an inability to believe a transgender person was a ‘real’ female or male; refusing to use the person’s adopted name or using “gender inappropriate pronouns”; and feelings of discomfort and/or an inability to trust or connect with someone based on their transgender status.
The school added that they did not “require any formal medical/psychological assessment and reporting when a pupil seeks to be treated as transgendered.” It said it was working “at every stage’” with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (TPHT) in supporting transitioning children at the school. The school stated that “the close contact with these agencies will ensure that we act appropriately at any given stage as children move through the school.”
Since this letter in 2017, TPHT, which runs the UK’s only gender identity development service for children, has been rocked by scandal with numerous cases citing the danger the Trust poses to the wellbeing of young children.
Since the Rowes’ ground-breaking story broke, the impact of trans ideology has escalated to the point that primary school children are now being encouraged in Scotland, for example, to change their gender without their parents’ knowledge. Furthermore, in the past decade, the UK has seen a 3,000 per cent spike in children being referred to gender identity clinics.
Following the response from the school, the Rowes withdrew their son and began to build their legal case by instructing experts to report on the impact transgender affirming policies have on young children.
Despite many experts in this field being silenced by trans activists, Dr Graham Rogers, a consultant psychologist with 30 years’ experience in the field of psychiatry, reported on the dangers transgender affirming policies have on young children.
His report stated that the Cornwall Guidelines places emphasis on “equalities legislation,” while:
“research and the needs of young people were ignored. The policy showed little or no appreciation for the safety and welfare of children and adolescent or their developmental needs. The approach of the guidance was ‘as if’ the children were fully mature adults.”
The report also stated that the guidance,
“contains no warnings of the effects of transgender medication, many of which were understood at the time the document was produced and additional ones that are now accepted, even by the NHS.”
He added that the guidance, “shows no understanding of the effects of puberty or the process of adolescent development, or its role in this change,“ and that it “appears to miss the role of child and adolescent development, the normal variations in gender and sexual development or the concept of ‘safeguarding.'”
Dr Rogers also made the crucial point that 88% who experience gender dysphoria as children grow out of it, post-puberty.
Psychiatric expert, Dr Paul Rodney McHugh, Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US, reported on the long-term physical consequences that can occur because of an overly affirming approach to transgenderism, such as is set out in the Cornwall Guidelines.
Dr McHugh concluded his report stating that:
“Policies which affirm a child in their gender confusion without requiring psychological evidence are highly damaging to the children involved.”
He added that,
“leading experts in the area of psychiatry and paediatrics argue that abundant scientific evidence exists showing that transgender-affirming policies do none of the children they are meant to serve any real or lasting good; that it harms the vast majority of them; and that it leads to catastrophic outcomes for many such afflicted children.
“There is no other area in medicine where we unconditionally allow children to choose their own diagnosis.”
Calls for intervention
With the expert reports included, the Rowes lodged a formal complaint to the DfE calling on the Secretary of State for Education to intervene in their case and to review the use of the Cornwall Guidelines in primary schools.
Despite the scientific evidence and expert reports not being disputed, the DfE refused the request in July 2021 stating that:
“The Secretary of State has found no evidence to suggest that the school’s action, at the time, posed a risk to any child at the school, including Mr and Mrs Rowe’s two sons. The evidence reviewed also suggests that the school’s approach regarding gender identity was focused on the wellbeing of pupils.”
Wholly disagreeing with the government’s position, the Rowes now face no alternative but to pursue a judicial review.
‘We believe it is wrong’
Nigel commented on the legal challenge: “This is not just about boys wearing dresses. This case is about an ideology that is now embedded in schools, local authorities, and Church of England leadership, and is causing serious long-term harm to thousands of children.
“We believe it is wrong to encourage very young children to embrace transgenderism. Boys are boys and girls are girls. Gender dysphoria is something we as Christians need to address with love and compassion, but not in the sphere of a primary school environment.
“We took this action with heavy hearts, but having seen how this issue has escalated, we feel vindicated and believe the government must be challenged.
“The Cornwall Guidelines must be scrapped and replaced with a policy that protects children from partisan materials that lead them down a road of irreversible harm.
“We have been shocked that the government has refused to act on the clear evidence presented to them and face no alternative but to pursue a judicial review.”
Sally also commented: “We were given no choice but to home school our children. We, and our sons, either had to go along with what we believe is a lie or face being labelled as ‘transphobic.’ It is not possible for Bible-believing Christians to bring their children up in line with their beliefs under such policies and approach.
“We have been blessed that home schooling for our children has been a positive experience, but we are concerned for other families who are not able to home school and are forced to risk having their children indoctrinated by these guidelines.
“Six-year-old children are not able or even allowed to make decisions on voting or having a tattoo, for example – it is therefore immoral to think that they can make such life-changing decisions at such a young age. As a society we are called to protect children, and these guidelines and the culture they are embedding in primary schools is achieving the opposite.”
‘Public health crisis’
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Nigel and Sally Rowe were the first parents to courageously take a stand against trans ideology in our schools. They exposed the confusion and untruths being embedded in primary schools which have since developed into a public health crisis.
“They did this because of their Christian faith, and their heart, not only for their own children, but the thousands of children who are being affected.
“International experts on gender confusion have put their heads above the parapet and have provided a way forward pointing to a better and more compassionate way for schools to handle these complex situations.
“Despite all the warnings in their story, trans ideology continues to work its way into the fabric of our schools and our society unabated. The truth and the devastating testimonies from parents and their children who have been harmed don’t appear to resonate with the government or education authorities.
“Vulnerable children are being used as pawns and will continue to be harmed the most.
“It is chilling that Christian parents who want to bring up their children in line with their Christian beliefs cannot trust state education to be kind to them and make room for them.
“We will stand with the Rowes as they continue to seek justice and to protect the well-being of so many vulnerable children in primary schools.”
Find out more about The Rowes