Christian teacher banned after refusing to use trans student's preferred pronoun

Joshua Sutcliffe.(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

A Christian maths teacher has been banned from teaching after refusing to use a transgender student's preferred pronoun. 

Joshua Sutcliffe, 33, plans to appeal the decision by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA). If upheld, the ban cannot be reviewed for another two years. 

He said he was "devastated" by the verdict. 

"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?" he said.

"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." 

He was dismissed as a teacher for gross misconduct in 2017 after allegedly misgendering a biologically female student at his school who identified as a boy.

Mr Sutcliffe then took up a teaching position at another school but resigned in 2019 after a backlash over a video posted to his personal YouTube channel sharing his views on Islam. 

Legal issues with both schools were settled but the TRA decided to investigate a number of allegations against Mr Sutcliffe, including his refusal to use preferred pronouns, comments that he did not believe in gay marriage, and apparently failing to provide an alternative viewpoint to students when he allegedly showed them a video on masculinity by US conservative advocacy group, PragerU.

A seven-day professional conduct panel hearing culminated in the decision to bar him indefinitely from teaching after finding him guilty of "unprofessional conduct" and "bringing the profession into disrepute".

"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 said.

"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 TRA found that he was not guilty of unprofessional conduct in relation to his YouTube video on Islam.

In its judgment, the TRA said that a prohibition was "proportionate and in the public interest" in order to maintain "confidence in the profession". The ban prohibits Mr Sutcliffe from teaching in schools across England.

Commenting on the verdict, Mr Sutcliffe said he had been "mercilessly punished" for refusing to change his stance.

"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," he said.

"I have been bullied and pursued and have had every part of my life scrutinised for expressing my Christian faith and biological truth."

He added, "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, is calling on the government to act to end discrimination against Christian teachers and others in the profession who express similar views.

"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," she said. 

"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."

She added, "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."