Transgender Rights vs Religious Fundamenatalism.

My view on a current controversy in an Irish school that is the focus of international attention.

Frank Parker

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County Hall in Beverley, East Yorkshire where I was a public representative from 1985–9. Photo from Hull Daily Mail.

A long time ago I was in a position to exert some influence on the education policy of a large local authority in the north of England. It meant, for example, that I sat on panels charged with selecting head teachers for any school in which the post became vacant.

During my four year terms there were many such occasions, especially as one district within the authority’s purview had undergone a far reaching reorganisation. This involved closing all the existing schools and replacing them with newly established institutions so that every teacher, from head down, had to apply for roles in the new schools.

I, and the other members of these panels, were agreed that the ethos of each school was important and that it was up to the head teacher to ensure that ethos was central to the operation of the school. Central to the ideas we agreed upon were values such as inclusivity, compassion and empathy. We deemed it important that everyone in the school be treated with dignity and respect. Bullying and harassment were not to be tolerated. This applied equally to teachers, non-teaching staff and all pupils and their parents.

Candidates for headships were quizzed in order to satisfy the panel that he or she shared those values and would uphold them in his or her management of the school.

My influence in such matters did not end there. From time to time I was nominated to join a panel to hear the appeal of an employee who claimed that disciplinary action taken against them was unfair or unreasonable.

Transgender rights were not an issue back then, so I was never asked to adjudicate on the situation that arose recently in a school in Ireland. Nevertheless I find it impossible not to examine the issues raised by the events that have evolved over the past number of days.

So far as I can understand it, the initiating event, or sequence of events, went something like this: a certain young person, supported by his parents, expressed a wish to be referred to in non-gender specific language. The head teacher agreed to this.

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Frank Parker

Frank is a retired Engineer from England now living in Ireland. He is trying to learn and share the lessons of history.