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County council threatened with legal action in bid to have trans inclusion toolkit removed

Three claimants are crowd funding a legal challenge against Oxfordshire County Council in a bid to remove the Oxfordshire Trans Inclusion Toolkit recommended to schools and educational settings, which they argue is “unlawful and damaging to children”.

The claimants are Victoria Edwards, who lives in Oxford with her 12-year-old son, a teacher who says she is unable to teach in local authority schools because of the adoption of the guidelines, and a 13-year-old girl.

On their Crowd Justice page, Edwards said: “We believe the guidance places the rights of trans identified children above the rights of all other children and staff. It encourages staff to affirm the chosen gender identity of any child who wishes to identify into the opposite sex while closing down avenues for staff to uphold basic safeguarding principles within schools.

“It also encourages parental alienation and suggests that any parent who doesn’t affirm their child’s chosen gender identity may be a safeguarding risk and causing harm to their child.”

She added: “We want to hold Oxfordshire County Council to account. This case could be ground-breaking as it has ramifications for all schools nationally. This will be the first legal case that shapes the law on how schools are to engage with transgender issues. It will be a test case that will affect the whole country and could be the one thing that protects our children from the pressure schools and local authorities have come under from political lobby groups.

“We are taking action against Oxfordshire County Council because, despite promising a review and a consultation with parents who raised safeguarding concerns about their approach, they have produced guidance which is unlawful and puts children at risk.”

So far the claimants have raised £7,765 towards their £10,000 target. The claimants are being represented by education law firm Sinclairslaw.

In a statement Oxfordshire County Council said: “We are aware of the challenges faced by young people who feel they are not the gender they were assigned at birth. We also know that schools and other organisations are working hard to support these young people.

“While we acknowledge this is a difficult and emotive area, we are confident the revised toolkit will provide helpful guidance to schools looking to support this potentially vulnerable group of young people.”

The council added: “We utterly refute the suggestion that we are failing to safeguard children. As part of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board, we have recently worked with national experts and people who identify as trans to review the Trans Toolkit to enable organisations working with children and young people to provide effective support.

“This review confirmed the fundamental substance of the previous guidance, and has led to some improvements, which have been fully and unanimously approved by members of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board.

“The Safe Schools Alliance did make representation to the Safeguarding Board and the County Council about the previous toolkit. We have just received a legal letter asking for details of how the guidance to schools was formulated. A response to that letter is being considered.”