Muslim parents are amongst those who have written to the Vale of Glamorgan Council objecting to the controversial so-called “Transgender Toolkit for Schools” – which is back on the agenda of the council cabinet next week.
The Transgender Toolkit purports to set out guidance for schools in the Vale on dealing with children who perceive themselves to be of a sex which is not that of their physical body.
On April 30th the ruling cabinet of the Vale Council had authorised the formal adoption of the contentious document for implementation in all primary and secondary schools in the Vale. However some critics say the “transgender” issue has no basis in science or fact and is just a trendy fad being pushed and promoted a minority of left-wing “progressives”.
Before it was authorised, the Toolkit was the subject of a “call in” by Cllr Dr Ian Johnson (Plaid Cymru Buttrills, Barry) at the Vale’s Council’s Scrutiny Committee for Learning and Culture. It’s now emerged that at this meeting several letters from concerned local residents were considered – some extracts of which are as follows:- .
OBJECTOR ONE: ‘ MY SON WOULD AVOID P.E. IF HE HAD TO GET UNDRESSED WITH SOMEONE WITH A GIRL’S BODY’
In of the letters to the Vale Council a Muslim father of a 14-year-old schoolboy attending a Vale secondary school says:- “In my view as a father and a professional involved in children and families social work, the toolkit has failed to address the needs and wishes of natal girls, for example around sharing changing rooms and competitive sports. I also feel that it fails to give due consideration to child development theory and the changes and confusions around adolescence and puberty. I have a 14-year-old son who is going through physical changes and is worried enough about sharing changing rooms and has said that he would avoid PE if he had to get undressed with someone with a girl’s body in the changing room.”
OBJECTOR 2: THE ALLSORTS ALLIANCE : ‘THE VALE TOOLKIT ASSUMES PRIORITY SHOULD BE GIVEN TO “TRANSGENDER” PUPILS – RATHER THAN ORDINARY PUPILS’
The protest group the Allsorts Alliance wrote to the Vale Council to say the Transgender Toolkit “does not give proper consideration to the impact on female pupils of the proposed changes.” The writer says” We know that a large number of girls in schools experience sexual harassment [around 37 percent] and unwanted sexual touching [24 percent]. ….This should make issues around consent and boundaries a top priority for schools. However, throughout the Toolkit, the assumption is that the request of the trans-identifying pupil to use female spaces should be centred. [ i.e. boys identifying themselves as girls – and wanting to use girl’s toilets and changing rooms – should have priority over the wishes of girls] There are no references to the rights of girls to sex segregated spaces.”
The letter goes on to say “the Toolkit offers several scenarios where a male bodied pupil identifying as a girl wishes to use a female only space. In each scenario, the burden of responsibility is placed on the girl or her parent to raise concerns. Staff are also instructed to “focus on the `problem’ being the person who raises the concern, and not the trans individual”. Even an assertive, confident girl might well find it difficult to speak up about her right to boundaries in those circumstances — let alone a shy or anxious girl.”
The Allsorts Alliance says the Vale Council’s Transgender Toolkit “really trivialises girls’ concerns. Females who have experienced sexual abuse or assault may not want any male to see them undressing. Feeling in control of their own boundaries — not being forced to share intimate spaces”
OBJECTOR 3: ‘IF THIS GOES AHEAD – HOW DO WE SAFEGUARD OUR CHILDREN?’
Another Muslim parent- with a daughter in school in Penarth – says she is “deeply concerned” how this will affect her daughter and “her ability to take part in sports etc due to having the opposite sex using the same changing rooms.” I would definitely have to remove her from these activities, not only does it affect our religious boundaries it will affect our moral boundaries also.“
The Muslim mother writes “My older daughter , along with 4 others were victim of sexual abuse by an older boy at their school. If this proposal goes ahead how do we safeguard our children? I feel very strongly that our children are not being considered , and that risk assessments and safeguarding of our daughters are not being taken seriously in attempt to appease the minority.”
She adds “If these proposals go ahead we will have to remove our daughter from school and look to home educate. I know the majority of Muslim parents when made aware of this situation will do the same, which of course will cause a cultural divide amongst our children.”
OBJECTOR 4: ‘CHILDREN CANNOT CHANGE SEX’: ‘BOYS AND GIRLS HAVE THE RIGHT TO SINGLE-SEX ACCOMMODATION TO PROTECT THEIR DIGNITY’
Another parent writes “As a parent, I want my children to be taught the truth about biology and sex, in whatever way is appropriate for their age. I do not want my children to be taught something for which there is no basis in science, that humans can change sex: they cannot. … I do not want my children being taught about the concept of ‘trans gender’, at nursery or primary school, when it is quite outside their ability to understand. …. Although I am aware that a few adults can suffer from gender dysphoria, I do not think it is appropriate for children to be taught about this condition, specifically, until they are in the last years at school.
She adds “As a parent, I do not want my daughters to have to share toilet or changing facilities with boys, once they reach puberty. Learning to manage menstruation is challenging enough, without having to do so in close proximity with boys.”
The letter continues “It does not seem to me that proper consideration has been given, in developing the Transgender Toolkit, to the fact that ‘sex’ is a protected characteristic, under the Equality Act 2010. Both girls and boys have the right to single-sex accommodation to protect their privacy and dignity. It is absolutely unacceptable to me, as a parent, that any child should be allowed to use the facilities provided for children of the opposite sex on the basis of their `gender identity’ rather then their sex. Gender identity is socially determined and infinitely changeable, even over an individual’s lifetime; sex is immutable (cannot be changed).”
OBJECTOR 4: CLLR SIVARUBY SIVAGNANAM: ‘IN A GIRLS’ CHANGING ROOM – IF A GIRL IS UNCOMFORTABLE CHANGING NEXT TO A TRANS BOY – IT’S THE GIRL WHO’LL BE REMOVED- NOT THE BOY.’
Vale Cllr Sivaruby Sivagnanam (Labour St Augustines) did not appear in person at the Scrutiny Committee but joined those writing in protest to the Scrutiny Committee about the Transgender toolkit .
Cllr Sivaganam says in her written statement :- “It appears that a girl will be removed from a girls’ changing room if she feels uncomfortable changing next to a boy who self identifies as a girl. It appears that in this scenario, the rights of the self-identifying transgender pupil are being promoted above those of the girl pupil.
Cllr Sivagnanam – who works Labour MP Stephen Doughty asks “Has there been an equality impact assessment carried out in this scenario which takes into account the potential competing equality strands and protected characteristics, in this case sex and self-identifying transgender?”
She adds “the approach here has not been joined up and I think poorly reflects the Vale’s duty to promote equality for all protected characteristics” and – “as a lawyer” – warns that the Vale Council “may face the possibility of legal action.”
In the Scrutiny Committee meeting itself Cllr Ian Johnson, – who had “called in” the contentious “Transgender Toolkit” – said he wanted to ensure that the Vale Council and others had the capacity to implement guidance given in the document. He also wanted to know whether or not the guidelines were “optional”as far as schools were concerned.
Three “expert witnesses” – all supportive of the Transgender Toolkit – appeared before the Vale Council Scrutiny Committee. They were Lisa Power MBE, LGBT Historian, previous policy director of the Terrence Higgins trust and a founder of the organisation Stonewall, Lu Thomas Chair of PRIDE Cymru, local school governor and Equalities consultant and Ceri Lambert – whose daughter Row Jones had begun her transition whilst at school.
Some members of the public had asked for permission to speak but, unlike the so-called “experts”, each was limited to a maximum time of 3 minutes:-
Ms. Sarah Tanburn asked the committee to refer Transgender Toolkit back to the Vale Council cabinet because she was not convinced the council had a robust Equality Impact Assessment.
Ms. Sue Quinn-Aziz called the Transgender Toolkit a “one size fits all solution”.She said the document was “silent on safe guarding guidance, health and safety assessments, fairness, gender neutral options.” and said there was nothing in the Toolkit about tailoring the guidance to the ages of pupils
Ms. Carryn Williams said the Transgender Toolkit had given “no consideration” to the issue of girls when menstruating. Pupils such as those with autism might well lack judgement and require assistance in dealing with such matters. She too wanted the Transgender Toolkit referred back to cabinet .
Ms. Jennifer Charles who is a “trans woman parent” and a member of the Wales Equality Alliance, drew attention to self harming and suicide amongst transgendered people. Ms. Charles said it is “wrong to stop a child from dealing with their gender issues” . Sh e thought that “trans children should be allowed to reassign gender if they wished to do and should receive support to do so.”
Ms Anne Greagsby – of Allsorts Alliance [a task group set up to challenge the Vale of Glamorgan’s Transgender Toolkit] was later to call the entire debate “rigged” . She stated that the Transgender Toolkit “promoted a dangerous myth that children were born in the wrong body”.
Mrs Greagsby said gender was a social issue and that children had vivid imaginations and they needed support in acknowledging changes in their body .Ms. Greagsby stated that she would not want to be referred to as “si” or “sis” and she said that in the document teachers were being advised to address pupils in a manner which was not appropriate.
On two occasions the Vale Scrutiny Committee chair Cllr Lis Burnett (Labour Stanwell) asked Ms. Greagsby to “refrain from making comments inappropriate and unrelated to the call-in.” .
Afterwards Ms Greagsby said that she was interrupted so much by Cllr Burnett she “hardly got to say anything” and alleged that Cllr Burnett ( a strong supporter of the Transgender Toolkit and its aims and objectives) had included her own lengthy remarks in the three minutes allocated to Ms Greagsby.
The Vale of Glamorgan’s “Safeguarding Officer” has confirmed that a “second edition” of the Vale Transgender Tookit is currently being developed
Now the Trangender Toolkit is on the agenda for the next Vale Council cabinet meeting on Monday next week (June 18th 2018).