‘Susan’ v Gateshead school
Christian parent governor ‘Susan’ was dismissed for raising concerns with the trans-affirming sex ed policy at her children’s primary school.
With the Institute’s help she was reinstated following an order made by the High Court.
Susan reached a legal settlement with the school after being kicked off its Governing Body for pointing out legal errors in its Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) policy. She has been granted anonymity by the Court in order to protect her children.
Significantly, the successful outcome of the case will reassure parents and school governors of their right to challenge inappropriate teaching on gender and sexual ethics in schools.
School lesson plans challenged by Susan included activities that:
• encourage children to question their own gender identity;
• encourage talking with outside groups about any concerns pupils may have – but failed to mention parents;
• use the discredited ‘Genderbread Person’ graphic, teaching children that ‘gender identity’, ‘gender expression’ and biological sex can all be different – and exist anywhere on a scale from 0-100; and,
• claim being a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ is determined by personality, hobbies and clothes – not biology.
She first raised her concerns with fellow governors in March 2021, pointing out that adopting the draft RSE policy could be unlawful. When other governors did not engage with her concerns, at the headteacher’s suggestion, Susan resorted to the school’s official complaints procedure. But, before this had concluded, the Governing Body told her that “[your] continued dissatisfaction with the outcome of the complaints process is not consistent with supporting a collective decision made by the governing body”. In June 2022, it removed Susan as a governor, triggering a five-year ban on serving as a governor in any school in England.
Statutory guidance warns that the power to remove a governor “should not be used simply to remove dissenting or challenging voices”, but shockingly, in September, an Appeal Panel constituted by the Local Authority upheld the Governing Body’s decision.
Susan’s legal team, including human rights expert Paul Conrathe, argued the Governing Body and Appeal Panel acted unlawfully in how they removed her – including breaching her Article 10 right to freedom of expression, and that Susan should be permitted to resume her role as an elected governor.
The Gateshead primary school’s Governing Body, and Local Authority have both accepted that the decision to remove Susan was unlawful. She was reinstated in June 2023 following an order made by the High Court, however the school’s RSE policy itself remains in place pending a final decision by the DfE.
Following her reinstatement, Susan urged Christian school governors to carefully check their school’s RSE policies ahead of the first governors’ meetings of the new academic year.