Tribunal to hear appeal of Christian school worker who questioned sex ed and trans ideology

Kristie Higgs was sacked for gross misconduct.(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

A tribunal is to hear the appeal of a Christian school worker who says she was sacked after expressing concern about sex education and trans ideology on her private Facebook page. 

Kristie Higgs, 45, was dismissed for gross misconduct from her role as a pastoral assistant at a Church of England primary school in 2019.

She said the school let her go after she shared two Facebook posts challenging transgender ideology and sex education. 

The first post was a petition challenging the government's Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum, while the second shared an article expressing concern about the use of pro-trans books in American schools. 

After receiving an anonymous complaint, the school dismissed Mrs Higgs over concerns that it could be brought into disrepute in the community by the language used in the social media posts. 

Mrs Higgs challenged her sacking, claiming discrimination and harassment on the grounds of her Christian beliefs, but in October 2020 the Bristol Employment Tribunal ruled in favour of the school. 

In its decision, the Tribunal concluded that Mrs Higgs had not been sacked because of the Christian beliefs she expressed on social media but because of "a genuine belief on the part of the school that she had committed gross misconduct". 

The judgment stated, "Our view was that her treatment was not because of the relevant beliefs and accordingly her claim of direct discrimination failed."

It added, "Although not stated as clearly or simply as this, the act of which we concluded Mrs Higgs was accused and eventually found guilty was posting items on Facebook that might reasonably lead people who read her posts to conclude that she was homophobic and transphobic.

"That behaviour, the school felt, had the potential for a negative impact in relation to various groups of people, namely pupils, parents, staff and the wider community."

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Mrs Higgs will have her case heard at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in London on 1 and 2 March.

Lawyers for Mrs Higgs will argue that the Employment Tribunal erred in law with its original judgment and demonstrated a manifestly incorrect understanding of freedom of speech.

Speaking ahead of the hearing, Mrs Higgs said she was "encouraged" that the Tribunal had agreed to hear her appeal and that she was praying "for justice" this week.

"I was punished for sharing concerns about Relationships and Sex Education," she said.

"I hold these views because of my Christian beliefs, beliefs and views which are shared by hundreds of thousands of parents across the UK.

"My number one concern has always been the effect that learning about sex and gender in school will have on children at such a young age. I have not discriminated against anyone, and never would.

"I was raising concerns about my son being educated in matters that are not aligned with my religious beliefs and people could choose to agree or disagree. I would never tell others what to think.

"My bigger worry was that they were introducing the confusing idea of changing gender to children at such a young age, in a Church of England primary school.

"I am disappointed that the Church of England has failed to come out and support me and instead appear to be endorsing gender confusion in their primary schools."

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said the previous judgment "should concern all of us who care about the freedom to be a Christian believer in the UK".

"Even though her post was private to her family and friends she is being held responsible for what others might do with it," she said.

"Even though no one actually thinks or claimed that Kristie holds hateful views, she was fired because one anonymous 'friend' said they were and because others might think the same.

"It is clear no actual harm has come to the school's reputation as a result of her posts, but that she has been sacked as if it had. The posts were not even in relation to the secondary school but about the books being read in her son's primary school.

"This hearing has exposed a clear injustice and we will support Kristie for as long as it takes to overturn this judgment."