England’s schools told to inform parents if kids want to change gender identity

LONDON — Schools in England will be expected to inform parents if their kids want to change their gender identity, under new guidance issued by the British government Tuesday.

Under the draft plan, which comes amid heated debate about gender in the governing Conservative Party and calls from schools for more support, teachers will not be forced to automatically tell parents if their kids raise “general” questions about their gender identity at school.

But they will be expected to inform parents if kids want to take more concrete steps towards transitioning. There will be some exemptions in place where there are concerns about a child’s safety at home.

The guidance notably stops short of a total ban on social transitioning — which can include changes to someone’s name, pronouns and appearance — in schools, as some in the Tory Party had been calling for.

Instead, the government says schools must take a “cautious approach” to such requests and are not under a “general duty” to comply with them.

Equalities Secretary Kemi Badenoch, seen as a potential future leader of the Conservatives, said Tuesday that the guidance should give teachers and school leaders “greater confidence when dealing with an issue that has been hijacked by activists misrepresenting the law.”

“It makes clear that schools do not have to accept a child’s request to socially transition, and that teachers or pupils should not be pressured into using different pronouns,” she added.

Truss: Not far enough

The draft guidelines, which will now be thrown open for views before being firmed up, come after months of deliberation from the U.K. government.

Critics on the right of the Tory party are already pushing for the government to do more — and want formal legislation rather than guidelines.

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss said Tuesday: “Today’s guidance does not go far enough. During the many months we have been waiting for its publication, it has become increasingly clear that non-statutory guidance will provide insufficient protection and clarity, and that a change in the law of the land is required.”

Truss, backed by Tory MPs including Miriam Cates of the influential New Conservatives caucus, is instead pushing legislation of her own. That backbench plan — which is unlikely to succeed in the House of Commons — would protect single-sex spaces in law; ban social transitioning in schools; and prevent the use of puberty blockers and hormone treatment for gender dysphoria in under-18s.