Christian teacher to appeal ban over 'misgendering'

Joshua Sutcliffe.(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

A Christian teacher is to appeal against being barred from the profession after he refused to use a student's preferred pronouns.

Joshua Sutcliffe, 32, was banned indefinitely by the Secretary of State for Education for his refusal to refer to a biologically female student as a boy. 

The Teaching Regulation Authority (TRA) struck him off last year after an investigation and disciplinary hearing claimed he had brought the profession "into disrepute". 

He is appealing the verdict after the government published draft guidance on transgenderism in schools last December stating that neither teachers nor pupils should be compelled to use preferred pronouns. 

"No teacher or pupil should be compelled to use these preferred pronouns and it 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or 'boys,' even in the presence of a child that has been allowed to change their pronouns," states section 6.3 of the draft guidance. 

Mr Sutcliffe is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) in his decision to appeal the TRA's ruling to the High Court. He is also pursuing a Judicial Review of the decision to ban him.

He said that while he felt "vindicated" by the release of the draft government guidance, it "means nothing" if his teaching ban remains in place. 

"To continue to be barred from the profession I love in light of the draft guidance would be another of the many cruel injustices I have had to face for expressing my Christian beliefs," he said. 

"In 2017 there was no training and no guidance on these issues for teachers. I was a young teacher building my career in the profession at a time when schools were taking guidance from Stonewall, not the government or any experts on these issues.

"After the pronouns debacle, I was a marked man in the education system and was pursued for any expression of my Christian belief until I was forced out of the profession indefinitely.

"Based on this ruling, every teacher is at risk if they share their beliefs and views in the classroom. I believe affirming children in gender confusion in the classroom is psychologically damaging for them. I refused to go against my conscience and cause a child harm and refused to apologise for that.

"The TRA wanted me to capitulate and say that I was wrong. I have been mercilessly punished for refusing to do so. I have been bullied and pursued and have had every part of my life scrutinised for expressing my beliefs and biological truth.

"This decision has put me and my family at risk. I have a young son and everything that is happening is affecting him. In light of the new guidance, I believe it is time for the TRA and the government to do the right thing."

The CLC's Andrea Williams said it was "now high time for justice for Joshua" and that the TRA ruling "cannot stand in light of the new guidance". 

"We can't underestimate the chilling impact that the ruling in Joshua Sutcliffe's case has. Teachers are intimidated into silence for fear of losing their jobs if they say something with which the regulator disagrees," she said. 

"The teaching profession is no longer an easy place to navigate for Christian teachers. Expressing long held Christian beliefs on marriage and gender can get you suspended, investigated and barred." 

She added, "If the guidance had been in place six years ago, none of what Joshua has been through would have happened. It's now time for justice for Joshua. The ban must be overturned."