Parents told son, 6, could be 'transphobic' after he was 'confused by boy wearing a dress'

14 February 2022, 11:51 | Updated: 14 February 2022, 12:42

Nigel and Sally Rowe
Nigel and Sally Rowe. Picture: Christian Concern

By Stephen Rigley

The parents of a six-year-old boy were warned that he may be deemed "transphobic" if he were to question another pupil wearing a dress.

Christians Sally and Nigel Rowe, said they received a letter from the headteacher and chair of governors declaring pupils could be seen as transphobic if they showed "an inability to believe a transgender person is actually a 'real' female or male.

The Rowes from Isle of Wight pulled their children out of school in 2016 and 2017 after one of their sons came home confused that a boy in his class had begun inconsistently wearing a dress and identifying as a girl.

The couple, who now home-school both their children have objected to the guidance being given at their children's former school and called for a judicial review of the Department for Education's decision to provide guidelines on the issue.

They were granted permission for a judicial challenge and a hearing will take place later this year. 

The Rowes told The Times that the letter they received from the school was 'cold' and did not attempt to address their concerns.  

Mr Rowe said: "One of the main issues we struggled with in relation to the letter was that it said that if our six-year-old son did not recognise the other boy as a little girl or a little boy, then he would be deemed transphobic. And our son had to use the correct pronouns.

'I don't think that a six-year-old has the cognisant ability to work that out, especially if the child is gender fluid. And the letter also said that we as parents would be deemed to be transphobic if we didn't accept that position.' 

A DfE spokesman said: "We recognise that issues relating to gender identity can be complex and sensitive. Schools are best placed to work with parents, pupils and public services to decide what is best for individual children and what is best for all others in the school."

The judicial review later this year will examine the DfE's promotion of Cornwall Schools Transgender Guidance, which aims to support transgender pupils. 

These guidelines - which the couple say must be replaced with something that "protects children from partisan materials that lead them down a road of irreversible harm" – state that transgender pupils 'should be able to wear the uniform of their true gender'.

The guidelines add: "Provided the child is dressing in an appropriate manner for the school regulations, feels safe and supported and the clothes they are wearing are appropriate for them, there should not be an issue."

According to the Times, the couple said that when they raised the issue, the school gave them the choice of "either affirming transgenderism, which they believe is harmful, or being labelled as transphobic".

Mr Rowe added: "This is not just about boys wearing dresses. This case is about an ideology that is now embedded in schools, local authorities, and Church of England leadership, and is causing serious long-term harm to thousands of children."