The Corner

Education

‘Don’t Tell the Parents’: Official Advice for Teachers of ‘Trans Children’

How can we help “transgender school children” (i.e., school children with gender dysphoria)? The necessarily frank answer is by keeping them away from the overreaching, uncompromising assertions made by the most vocal — though by no means most representative — trans activists.

That’s the conclusion I’ve come to after debating a trans “celebrity” for The Spectator podcast about my cover story last week.

You can listen here.

In my essay, I examine the situation in schools both in the U.K. and the U.S. I start by sharing how, as a teacher in Scotland, I was trained by a government-funded campaign group to affirm the new identity of any child who self-declared as transgender:

We were advised to decorate our classrooms with positive images of trans people and to talk about trans celebrities, especially those with large social media followings. This would make gender non-conforming children feel more included. Should they feel excluded, they are at risk of killing themselves.

My biggest concern was this:

Where are the parents in all of this? They are often not told if their child is worried about their gender. During my training, we were told to avoid ‘outing’ potential transgender children to their families. If the child so wished, we might want to keep mummy and daddy out of the loop. Un-believably, this is in line with Scottish government guidelines.

This is also happening in the U.S., of course. This month the New Jersey Department of Education has come out with a new guidance document, which not only advises schools that they don’t have to inform parents of name/pronoun changes but seems to encourage reporting them for child abuse should they object. And how might this play out? In his Spectator essay, James Kirkup illuminates:

Your 13-year-old daughter tells a teacher that’s she’s uncomfortable with her body. She prefers trousers to skirts, football to ballet. She says she thinks she’s a he and wants to be treated as a boy at school. Would the teacher tell you your daughter wants to change gender?

Your 11-year-old granddaughter comes home from school upset. Changing after gym, another girl stood watching her undress and playing with her penis. (The girl in question is transgender, so yes, she has a penis.) When your family complains to the school, what happens?

In the first case, no, the teacher wouldn’t tell you. ‘All people, including children and young people, have a right to privacy… Staff should not disclose information that may reveal a pupil’s trans status to others, including parents.’ In the second, it’s not the girl with a penis who has a problem, it’s the girl without one. She and her parents have wrongly assumed the child with the penis is ‘not a real girl’. That error should be ‘challenged through training and awareness raising’ so your granddaughter is comfortable with her classmate.

These cases are real. So are the responses, which come from the Allsorts Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit, guidelines for school staff developed with Brighton and Hove City Council and used, in different forms, by several dozen councils in England and Wales. It is unsurprising that schools want guidance on how to deal with children describing themselves as transgender, since more and more seem to be doing so.

Indeed, many parents, teachers, and doctors are left bewildered by these developments. So how is this being allowed to happen? To answer this requires looking at how the activist agenda — backed by inordinate political and financial power — has infiltrated the medical community.

Pressure has been mounting for a while. For instance, in 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ released guidelines which were lead-authored by a trans activist. And in 2018, a policy statement, consistent with these guidelines, and intended for use by their 67,000 pediatricians, fully endorsed a transitioning-affirming approach.

Then, of course, there’s the role of gender therapists and pharmaceutical companies (though more on them later).

But the main reason this is happening — and happening in plain sight, and with hardly any challenge — is, as Kirkup argues effectively in his Spectator essay, because of a drastic political failure to even acknowledge, let alone discuss, the issues at hand.

It should, of course, go without saying that in free countries all people should be treated equally and be free to pursue happiness however they see fit — this includes and should always include those with transgender identities.

However, this debate now revolves around child welfare, scientific integrity, and a new orthodoxy which is enabled by those who know better but can’t quite summon the energy to engage.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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