The new guidance report titled “ Valuing All God’s Children” directs the church’s schools to combat all forms of bullying by stating “Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, alongside all forms of bullying, is a factor that can inhibit a pupil’s ability to feel safe as well as their foundation for learning. Church of England schools must therefore implement measures to combat it.”
“WE MUST AVOID, AT ALL COSTS, DIMINISHING THE DIGNITY OF ANY INDIVIDUAL TO A STEREOTYPE OR A PROBLEM."
It is estimated that the church currently educates over one million students.
In a forward written by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, he states, “We must avoid, at all costs, diminishing the dignity of any individual to a stereotype or a problem."
Conservative activists are condemning the new guidance. An evangelical member of the Church of England’s parliament, Andrea Minichiello Williams told the Daily Mail, ‘‘These rules are unkind, unloving and lacking in compassion. We are all against bullying, but the Church is using these guidelines to pursue an agenda that runs counter to the Church’s teaching.” This comes as conservative media outlets are reporting the guidance as if the Archbishop were advising schools to force male identified children to wear tiaras. This includes headlines from the Daily Mail itself, which read “Chruch: Let little boys wear tiaras.”
Here is the actual statement from the guidance:
“In the early years context and throughout primary school, play should be a hallmark of creative exploration. Pupils need to be able to play with the many cloaks of identity (sometimes quite literally with the dressing up box). Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision. For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess’s tiara and heels and/or the firefighter’s helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment. Childhood has a sacred space for creative self-imagining.”
The guidelines come just days after Oxford Teacher Joshua Sutcliffe was suspended for misgendering a transgender male student in his class. Calling the incident a “slipup,” Sutcliffe went on to state that he was reluctant to correctly gender the pupil as it went against his “Christian beliefs.” He also stated, "Although I did not intentionally refer to the pupil as a 'girl', I do not believe it is unreasonable to call someone a girl if they were born a girl." Sutcliffe is being represented by the same Andrea Minichiello Williams who has lashed out against the new guidance.
LGBT rights activists are praising the new changes. Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell told the Guardian that the guidance was “big progress for a church that traditionally and historically has been hostile to LGBT rights”.