A Christian family has been awarded £22,000 in legal costs and a commitment from the government to reform transgender policies in primary schools, following a five-year legal battle.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Nigel Rowe, 49 and his wife Sally, 47, had taken legal action against the Department for Education (DfE) after they and their six-year-old son were labelled ‘transphobic’ by a Church of England primary school for refusing to ‘believe’ in transgender affirming policies.
The government has now decided to settle the case after the Rowes won permission at the High Court for a judicial review of the government’s transgender affirming policies. The recent comments of Attorney General Suella Braverman KC align closely with the reasoning behind Nigel and Sally’s legal case.
School didn’t require psychological assessment
The Rowes had raised concerns after two boys in their sons’ classes at the age of six were allowed to come to the Isle of Wight school identifying as girls.
The school had stated that they did not “require any formal medical/psychological assessment and reporting when a pupil seeks to be treated as transgendered.”
It added that it was working “at every stage” with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (TPHT) in supporting transitioning children at the school. This year the TPHT has been shut down over safety concerns for thousands of children who have been referred to the clinic.
The Rowes were subsequently given an ‘accept it or leave’ ultimatum by the school after they were told that their son would be demonstrating “transphobic behaviour” if he showed an “inability to believe a transgender person is actually a ‘real’ female or male” or refused to “acknowledge a transgendered person’s true gender e.g. by failing to use their adopted name or using gender inappropriate pronouns.”
The local Church of England diocese backed the school’s position based on its ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ guidance on challenging homophobic, bi-phobic and transphobic bullying.
The guidance covers the CofE’s 4,700 primary schools and says that children as young as five should be affirmed if they want to identify as the opposite gender.
The Rowes were subsequently had no other choice but to home school their two sons as they believed the school’s policies were harmful and in direct opposition to how they wanted to raise their children’s understanding of human identity.
Challenging government-recommended transgender guidelines
In response to their treatment by the school, the Rowes wrote to the DfE calling on the Secretary of State for Education to intervene in their case.
They also called on the DfE to scrap the Cornwall Schools Transgender Guidelines which are being held as best practice by the government.
Since 2015, the guidelines, produced by LGBT activists and driven by Stonewall, provide schools, teachers, and governors, with guidance on how transgender ideology can be embedded into the fabric of a schools’ culture.
The Policy suggests 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.
The Rowes also presented international expert evidence to the DfE which revealed how trans affirming policies lead to ‘catastrophic outcomes’ for gender-confused children.
However, the government refused to properly assess this evidence and rejected the Rowes’ complaint saying that the school’s treatment of the two primary school children who had chosen to identify as the opposite gender ‘does not constitute education.’
Pursuing a judicial review of these decisions, in February 2022 the Rowes were granted permission by Lord Justice Lane to bring a judicial review for their case to be heard in full at the High Court.
Justice Lane ruled that the DfE’s decisions were judicially reviewable on the grounds that transgender issues in schools are a matter of education and therefore the responsibility of the state.
Rather than facing a full judicial review hearing, the DfE has now settled the case and have awarded the Rowes £22,000 in costs which they intend to donate to the Christian Legal Centre. The government have also committed to reform: ‘guidance for schools on transgender issues is being developed by the Department in conjunction with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with a view to undertaking a public consultation on draft guidance in Autumn 2022, to which the Claimants will have the opportunity to respond.’
Schools should only socially transition a child after full assessments
In a speech at the Policy Exchange last month it is believed the then Attorney General, Suella Braverman KC, provided indications of how these guidelines will be shaped.
Providing clarification and guidance on the law on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in schools, she said:
‘The problem is that many schools and teachers believe – incorrectly – that they are under an absolute legal obligation to treat children who are gender questioning according to their preference, in all ways and all respects, from preferred pronouns to use of facilities and competing in sports. All this is sometimes taking place without informing their parents or taking into account the impact on other children. Anyone who questions such an approach is accused of transphobia. In my view, this approach is not supported by the law.’
She added: “No child should be made to fear punishment or disadvantage for refusing to adopt a preferred pronoun for a gender questioning child.” And crucially that in this context, “the right to freedom of belief, thought, conscience and speech must be protected.”
Furthermore, the Attorney-General has said that social transition “is a serious intervention” and that any decision to socially transition a child at school “should only be taken after all safeguarding processes have been followed, medical advice obtained, and a full risk assessment conducted.”
Mrs Braverman KC concluded that we must be sensitive “to the fact that gender distress may be a response to a range of developmental, sociological and psychological factors.”
When Nigel and Sally Rowe shared their story in the media in 2017, they were widely labelled as ‘bigots’ and ostracised and abused by many in their local community.
On ITV This Morning, for example, Phillip Schofield told the Rowes that they were ‘the ones with the problem’ and told them that “attitudes change, we’re less medieval now than we used to be.”
The Rowes now believe that they have been fully vindicated following the harrowing stories of de-transitioners, and by the Cass Review which has revealed that there is currently a public health crisis in regard to the escalating number of gender confused children in the UK and that the current approach to treatment for gender confusion in children risks overlooking the underlying causes of a child’s distress.
‘Delighted with the outcome’
Responding to the outcome in a joint statement, Nigel and Sally Rowe said: “We are delighted with the outcome and pray that it will contribute to real change in primary schools.
“The new guidance must ensure that no more children come to harm. Transgender affirming policies must end in schools and issues with gender confused children compassionately and professionally managed outside of the classroom.
“Many have tried to make light of this issue by suggesting it is just about boys dressing up. This case has always been about a dangerous ideology that is now firmly embedded in schools, local authorities, and Church of England leadership, and which is causing serious long-term harm to thousands of children.
“Referrals to gender identity clinics have gone through the roof in the past decade. In 2012 there were 250 referrals, compared to last year when there were 5,000 – this cannot be allowed to continue.
“Clear evidence of the harm transgender affirming policies has on children was presented to the government and they ignored it. Only by pursuing a judicial review has the government been forced to see sense and commit to protecting vulnerable children from LGBT activism in primary schools.
“Throughout the last five years we have been shocked by the hostility shown towards us for being prepared to raise concern publicly about the damage transgender ideology is causing in schools. We have never hated anyone, we wanted to tell the truth through love and compassion for children being impacted.
“As adults, we have a responsibility to look after children and protect them. Children don’t have the same capacity to think through the consequences of something like adults do. We want children to be allowed to be children. We don’t want harmful ideas to be imposed on them; children should be in an environment where they are safe.
“A child of primary school age doesn’t have the mental ability to work out what it is to be transgender.
“Promoting transgender ideology to children is harmful: it’s lying to children. Children are impressionable – and they look for affirmation. But when you’re affirming them to be the opposite gender, you’re lying to them. As Christians, we need to make a stand for truth – that is the loving thing to do.
“We’ve seen the regret of people who have gone down the transgender route; we’ve seen the rising statistics of children being pushed down that road – and the more you affirm a child as transgender, the further down that pathway they go. This is a health crisis. It’s about pushing an agenda in schools, and now the numbers are off the scale, it’s devastating.
“We have been moved by compassion to act and make a stand on this and believe we have now been vindicated.
“We call on more parents to scrutinise what is happening in their children’s schools on these crucial issues.
“It is now also time for the Church of England to scrap its ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ guidance, as on the growing evidence, they are in fact damaging all God’s children.”
‘The first parents to expose transgender ideology in our primary schools’
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which has backed the Rowes’ case from the beginning, said: “Nigel and Sally Rowe were the first parents to expose transgender ideology in our primary schools five years ago.
“At the time, for their courage and determination to expose the truth, they were ostracised by their local community and faced personal abuse for daring to question policies which they believed were harmful.
“They were ahead of the curve and could see the harm that was coming.
“Schools, local authorities, and the Church of England have believed and enforced Stonewall’s lie that if you question an affirmative approach to gender-confusion you could be breaking the law.
“The Church of England, who have over one million children under their care, backed the approach of the school in this case. ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ must now be scrapped in light of this outcome and the overwhelming evidence that the Church is supporting harm.
“The government and wider public are only now beginning to see the evidence that backs the arguments and concerns the Rowes’ made from the beginning on transgender ideology.
“It has taken people of great courage who love Jesus and his teaching, like Nigel and Sally, to say that transgender affirmation isn’t right.
“We will continue to hold local authorities, schools and the government to account if these commitments and promises are not adequately met.”
Find out more about The Rowes