Gender-critical Swindon teacher loses employment tribunal case

A teacher's complaint that he was unfairly sacked for refusing to refer to a student by their preferred pronouns has been dismissed by an employment tribunal.

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

He refused to refer to a biologically female student by their preferred male name and he/him pronouns.

Mr Lister had denied violating the student's dignity.

The employment tribunal, held in Bristol, heard the pupil, named Student A, asked Mr Lister make the change in September 2021.

However, Mr Lister said he started to gesture to the student rather than use their birth name or preferred name.

He said it was a "gender-neutral communication style" but accepted the student found it upsetting.

At the end of that month the pupil asked if he was eligible for an all-female maths competition.

The tribunal heard Mr Lister wrote the student's female birth name on whiteboard in front of the class and said "she could [enter the competition] because she was a girl".

Summarising his views presented during the hearing, the panel said: "Mr Lister considered that [New College Swindon] required staff and students to celebrate 'students who had been persuaded to take wrong sex hormones' and likened the social transitioning of a child to the illegal act of performing FGM (female genital mutilation)."

In its judgment, it said Mr Lister was dismissed due to his conduct and expressing his beliefs in an "objectionable" manner.

It found the student was not at risk from using hormones, and that Mr Lister had not adhered to the school's gender reassignment policy, which was intended to protect students from harassment and discrimination under the Equality Act.

Bristol Civil Justice Centre seen from the outside
The employment tribunal was being held at Bristol Civil Justice Centre

The panel's decision focused on his behaviour towards Student A.

Other matters, including his social media posts, were investigated but not included in its ruling.

New College Swindon said in a statement: "We are pleased to confirm that the complaints of unfair dismissal and discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief have been dismissed.

"This is a sensitive issue, and individuals are entitled to their personal beliefs.

"A thorough investigation resulted in Mr Lister being dismissed for actions that were deemed discriminatory, causing significant upset and potential harm to a student, amounting to gross misconduct, and not simply for holding gender critical beliefs."

Mr Lister has since been banned by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) from participating in regulated activities with children.

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