Christian teacher banned from profession for not using a pupil’s preferred pronouns
A Christian teacher, previously suspended for addressing a 'transgender boy' as ‘her’ says he’s ‘devastated’ to be banned from teaching.
In a ruling thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, Joshua Sutcliffe was found guilty of unprofessional conduct and “bringing the profession into disrepute” by the Teaching Regulation Authority (TRA) after he failed to use a biological female pupil’s preferred pronouns of ‘he/him’.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Sutcliffe plans to appeal the ruling.
Sutcliffe, former maths teacher at Cherwell Secondary School, Oxford was dismissed for ‘misgendering’ a child in 2017 after saying “well done girls” to his students during a maths lesson.
An investigation into Sutcliffe’s behaviour was launched by the school and he was subsequently suspended and dismissed. He took legal action against the school for constructive dismissal and discrimination – the case was settled out of court.
The Authority launched its own investigation and found it was “more probable than not” that he had failed to use the child’s preferred pronouns on a number of occasions throughout his employment at the school – something he denies. The panel ruled that he had failed to treat a pupil with "dignity and respect".
Sutcliffe was also challenged by the TRA for comments he made about same-sex marriage, masculinity and Islam during questions at a Christian Union (CU) meeting and online.
Whilst working at St Aloysius RC College in North London, Sutcliffe was criticised for videos found on YouTube in which he expressed his Christian views and reflections on the Bible.
In one video he suggested that “Muslims have a false understanding of God” and that “Muhammad is a false prophet.”
Sutcliffe was suspended for a week in 2019, following an objection to his content from a parent. The allegation was dismissed by the TRA panel, as the video had not been uploaded to Sutcliffe’s personal YouTube channel whilst he was employed by the school.
Following the allegation that Sutcliffe had said he “disagreed with gay marriage” after being questioned by a pupil at a CU meeting, the panel concluded that Sutcliffe sharing his view “did not demonstrate a failure to treat pupils with dignity and respect, nor did he demonstrate a failure to safeguard pupils well-being”. However, he was criticised for showing “a lack of professionalism” in failing to provide alternative arguments and points of view to pupils when he allegedly promoted a video on masculinity from conservative non-profit PragerU.
Sutcliffe denies showing the video during form time but does say he told pupils about its availability online.
Following a seven-day hearing, the Secretary of State for Education ruled that Sutcliffe would be prohibited from teaching in any capacity for at least two years and potentially indefinitely.
The panel described Sutcliffe as “intolerant” and said it was satisfied he was “guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.” The TRA concluded that by refusing to use preferred pronouns and show “full remorse” for doing so, that they “have had to consider the matter from the point of view of an “ordinary intelligent and well-informed citizen.”
The Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “This means that Mr Joshua Sutcliffe is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England. He may apply for the prohibition order to be set aside, but not until 2025, 2 years from the date of this order at the earliest.
“This is not an automatic right to have the prohibition order removed. If he does apply, a panel will meet to consider whether the prohibition order should be set aside. Without a successful application, Mr Joshua Sutcliffe remains prohibited from teaching indefinitely.”
Responding to the outcome, Sutcliffe said: “I am devastated by the panel’s ruling and will appeal.
“Based on this ruling, every teacher is at risk if they share their beliefs and views in the classroom. If a teacher had shown or recommended a video from a liberal YouTube platform, would they have been treated as I have?
“I believe affirming children who are in gender distress in the classroom is psychologically damaging for them. I refuse to go against my conscience and cause a child harm and cannot apologise for that.”
Sutcliffe, who claims he’s been “bullied” because of his faith, says children are “indoctrinated” by Pride events, “but if Christian beliefs are raised or expressed in the classroom, you face having your career and life torn apart.”