Teacher sacked for ‘humiliating’ student over preferred pronouns, tribunal told

Mr Lister compared a teacher making a safeguarding referral about a student becoming indoctrinated by ISIS ideology to that of a student being encouraged by a teacher to take testosterone

Rod Minchin
Thursday 21 March 2024 14:10 GMT
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Related video: Idaho lawmaker wants to protect teachers who refuse to use student's preferred pronouns

A gender-critical teacher was sacked from his job for repeatedly humiliating a student by failing to treat them with respect and dignity and refusing to use their preferred pronouns, a tribunal heard.

Kevin Lister, 60, was dismissed for gross misconduct in September 2022 by New College Swindon following complaints by two students.

He had refused to refer to a student, aged 17, by their preferred name and he/him pronouns in A-level maths lessons.

The employment tribunal in Bristol heard Mr Lister had “humiliated” the teenager by writing his birth name – known as a “dead name” – on a classroom whiteboard and would point or gesture at them during lessons.

Carole Kitching, who was the college’s principal and chief executive at the time, told the hearing it was the way Mr Lister’s gender-critical beliefs were manifested that led to his dismissal and not the views themselves.

“I think you have made many assertions in many different forums, including the media, in that the reason for your dismissal was that you didn’t want to use the student’s preferred pronouns,” Miss Kitching said.

“Your dismissal was for how you treated the student and how they felt and how you harassed and discriminated against them.

“I understand why you felt unable to use these pronouns but why didn’t you raise that much earlier on?

“You raised a safeguarding issue in the September, which was not followed up until after your suspension, which was some five months later.

“I understand you have gender critical views, and they are recognised and respected as a protected characteristic but that doesn’t preclude you from having a conversation about how you manage that.

“When two people have protected characteristics you need to find a proportionate way to address that.

“We didn’t know about that until the student raised the complaint. You cannot have a situation where Student A was harassed and humiliated in the classroom.”

Miss Kitching rejected Mr Lister’s claim that being LGBT+ was in itself a safeguarding concern
Miss Kitching rejected Mr Lister’s claim that being LGBT+ was in itself a safeguarding concern (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

Mr Lister has taken the college to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal, discrimination or victimisation on grounds of religion or belief and that he suffered a detriment and/or dismissal due to exercising rights under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

The teenager – known only as Student A – had informed the college in September 2021 that he wished to be addressed with the male pronouns.

Mr Lister immediately raised a safeguarding concern because of the request, and also the student’s academic performance.

Later in the academic year, a friend of the teenager, referred to as Student B, made a formal complaint about Mr Lister’s conduct in the classroom.

Referring to the incident with the whiteboard and the all-girls maths competition, Miss Kitching said: “This was humiliating for the student, and I don’t understand why you wrote their name on the whiteboard when all they had to do was go and see another teacher.

“Student A had asked you to use a preferred name and if you didn’t wish to use the pronouns associated with that name it would have been possible to use a neutral pronoun.

“If that was not acceptable to you, you could have just used their name.”

Miss Kitching said the complaints were investigated and Mr Lister was suspended as the college felt Student A was at risk because of refusal to use their preferred pronouns.

“I do not think it was about gender critical views but how that is manifested,” she told the hearing.

“At the time we needed to make a judgment whether it was appropriate to suspend you because we felt the student was at risk of harm from the comments you made and you made it clear you would persist.

“It was in everyone’s interests to defuse that situation and to be fair to both the student and the employee. It was a neutral act.

“At the point the advice was unwanted, and the student wanted you to stop.

“You were suspended for failing to treat Student A with respect by consistently humiliating them in the class by your refusal to treat them with dignity and respect, which is required by all members of staff.”

Miss Kitching rejected Mr Lister’s claim that being LGBT+ was in itself a safeguarding concern and that Student A was embarking on medical transition.

“There was no evidence that was happening,” she said.

“You have made that leap because you say that it is the inevitable corralling between someone who wishes to be known by a different name or pronoun.”

Mr Lister compared a teacher making a safeguarding referral about a student becoming indoctrinated by ISIS ideology to that of a student being encouraged by a teacher to take testosterone.

“It is a completely different scenario,” Miss Kitching replied.

“There was no evidence Student A was being coerced and Student A themselves had asked and we knew subsequently they had the parents’ support in this.

“The college is not encouraging transgenderism – it is supporting students who have a protected characteristic.”

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