Campaigners have reacted angrily to guidance from the Chief Rabbi that parents should not have to be made aware if their child comes out as trans.
The guidance from the Chief Rabbi’s Office has stated that any information about staff or pupil gender identity should be kept confidential and not disclosed to anyone – including parents – because teachers or those in positions of responsibility away from the family home would not know how they would react.
A spokesman for the Chief Rabbi stressed that the advice related only to disclosures about gender identity and not things such as a change of name or pronouns, a national newspaper reported. But campaigners said they were “shocked by this attack on families” by the religious leader and claimed the guidance was contrary to basic safeguarding principles.
READ MORE: Schools are keeping kids’ trans identities from their parents
Rishi Sunak has previously said that “parents must be able to know” what is going on in schools and that he was concerned that teachers were not contacting families when a child began to question their gender at school.
It comes ahead of long-awaited government rules that it is understood will say that families must be informed if a child asks to change their names or uniform. The Department for Education is to publish instructions on gender issues before school breaks up for the summer.
The Chief Rabbi’s Office said it would review its own guidelines once the DfE had published its document. A spokesman said that the Chief Rabbi was not advocating “withholding important information about students’ lives from parents”.
However, in a section marked “safeguarding and confidentiality” in a publication titled The Wellbeing of LGBT+ Pupils: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Schools first released in 2018, it said “all staff should be clear that a pupil coming out is not a safeguarding issue”.
The publication, produced alongside Jewish LGBT charity KeshetUK, added: “Like any other personal information, any information about staff or pupil sexuality or gender identity should be treated as confidential. Unless there is a risk of harm, this should not be disclosed to anyone, including their parents.
“Making a pupil’s parents aware of their child’s sexuality and gender identity can itself be a safeguarding risk, particularly as the school cannot know how parents or carers might react.” If a pupil said they were at risk of harm through the reaction of others, the “safeguarding lead” should be informed, it said.
It also discussed training staff on what to do if a child “came out” to them, adding they should not disclose it to anyone — “especially their family or teachers who they may not wish to tell”.
A report by the Policy Exchange found that schools were routinely not informing parents when a child was questioning their gender. It said: “The law and the safeguarding principles based upon it is very clear: unless the contrary is shown, parents should always be involved with regard to a child’s welfare.”
The Telegraph yesterday reported that Tanya Carter, of Safe Schools Alliance, said that the Chief Rabbi’s advice ran counter to basic safeguarding principles. “Once again we are stunned at the poor understanding of safeguarding from people who should know better,” she told the publication. “It is the basis of safeguarding that all adults in a child’s life need to be working together for the benefit of that child.”
“The only exception to the rule of speaking to the parents would be if you felt that speaking to the parents would place the child in danger, in which case you need to follow your safeguarding procedures. We are really shocked by this attack on families by the Chief Rabbi.”
A spokesman for the Chief Rabbi’s Office said: “It is certainly not the case that our guidance advocates withholding important information about students’ lives from parents. Parents are unquestionably the primary guardians of their children’s welfare and it would be irresponsible for a school to regard them as anything else, unless there are specific safeguarding concerns.”
They added: “It could be harmful for a teacher to share details with a parent before the child is ready to do so. Teachers must of course communicate with parents but think carefully about how and when this is done.”