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Contesting personal freedoms

Chris James

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Here in the United States if you want to be a Nazi, go join up with your fellow fanatics. The same goes for the KKK and the other hate groups, some of them sponsored in the name of religion. This level of personal freedom to play the fool, or be a bigoted idiot, is guaranteed by our laws...at least for the moment. That freedom was abridged in the past for those who would be Communist, but hey, can't love everyone's sense of right and wrong.

But nothing these days seems to rally the hate more than those who dare to be different, the gay family. Many of us feel that different is better, an expression of our personal freedom, and the rest of society should just go punt. And then you read something like this:



What's in a name, you ask? Everything good and proper, a sense of identity. Who would deny a child something so important, especially when it leads to this? No sense of hate or bigotry is worth the life of a child. We as a society must allow the freedom to make gender choices and offer support to parents and children who must make these difficult decisions. Otherwise: we all become Nazis.   


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We could only wish that there was some real accountability for situations such as this. No matter what euphemisms you use, this is child abuse and should be prosecuted as such. I'll even go so far as to say, In My Opinion, that these people are all accomplices to murder.

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From what I have heard of the case, the report cited above is rather biased, it seems to be one of those Catch 22 situations which catch everybody out. First, so far as I have been able to establish Leo had not changed his name by Deed Poll or Statutory Declaration. Until he had the school was legally obliged to use his original name. Unfortunately until he was sixteen he was unable to do this in his own right. To do it under the age of sixteen required the consent of both his parents, which appeared to be unobtainable. There was a way around this problem but it would have required an application to the High Court and taken some time to sort out. As it was Leo would probably been of age before the case got to court.

There is a further complication in that under present legislation in the UK you can only legal change your gender on your birth certificate if you are over 18 years of age. The current legislation does not allow a person under 18 to get their gender officially changed or allow the parents or guardians of a minor to change the legal gender of a minor. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule but they require very expensive legal actions and also require that you show an 'error of attribution' at the time of birth.

This legislation is currently under review but given everything that is going on in the legislative process of the country at the moment it is unlikely that any change will be made prior to the next general election.

A further complication is that the school in question is a girls school as such is not allowed to accept boys as pupils. I am not certain but it may well be a charter school and governed in this by the charitable charter that established the school. As such if they had formally recognised the gender change they would have been required to ask Leo to leave. Although not involved directly I am aware of a case where quite a lot of counselling and support was given to a school and a pupil in the last year where a boy who was starting to trans to female was required to leave an all boys school.

The problem is that there is insufficient support of young people who are transgender. Until that support is in place scenarios like this will keep cropping up with all their tragic consequences. I don't think the school handled this very well but at the same time I believe they were trapped by a series of legal and regulatory requirements that had unintended consequences. 

Fortunately there is a movement in English school to make most public schools gender neutral. Unfortunately it is going to take a long time for this process to be completed.



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The death of a child, particularly at the child's own hands, is always horrific. The cause for that child's actions, and ways to avoid its repetition in future. must be identified and responses put in place as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, unless that child has left a detailed explanation behind, we are grasping at straws. In this case, as in most, that child's explanation seems to be absent.

Age 16 is not an uncommon age for big events in a teen's life. Depending on where one is, there's the Sweet Sixteen birthday party, Driver's license, Curfew relaxation, etc. A suicide in the preceding year, then, indicates serious problems about the child's own self-assessment of the future.

Looking in from the outside, then, is the only pathway to understanding the child's actions. There are many questions to be answered, all requiring speculation backed only by wide and wild interpretation. Some of the questions might include:

1. How did she make the decision that she wanted to be a he?

2. Once making the decision and receiving parental approval, why did he continue attending an all-girls school?

3. Did he maintain the same friendships as she had previously or were there significant changes?

4. What is the possibility that the desire for the change was transient but became evidently irreversible and the child felt trapped?

5. Where were his/her friends during this period of time?

6. What was the school administration's response to the initial change announcement? (See also #2)

7. Were any outside professionals involved in the discussion or was the girl's declaration accepted as adequate?

These are just a few that come to mind at the outset of evaluating things. Likely not more than a thousand additional inquiries out there somewhere.

But it's sad to think that in a world where a teen cannot legally drive, vote, smoke or drink, that same teen can make a relatively irreversible, life-changing decision about gender. This is one I think would be best put off until the boy or girl is a full adult and has a few more years of life experience to back that decision.

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Thank you, Nigel.  Your analysis is very helpful to understanding the issues that may have been involved in this sad situation.  Once again one must ask whether the reporting media have an inherent bias to leave certain facts undisclosed.  My heart goes out the the family and friends of this poor young man, and one can only hope that gender neutral reforms to the structure of educational institutions everywhere are not long delayed.

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Nigel, that was so well thought out and written, and thank you for that other side of the argument.  But it still makes me ask a very simply question.  While the school might be unable to change his name on their records until lawfully enable, why in the world couldn't the teachers and staff accommodate him by using the name he preferred in the classroom and halls?  There would be no legal objection to that. By not doing that, they were minimizing who he was and what he wanted to be, and it marginalized him.

No, the school handled this badly, and with the imperious pomposity many principals in schools here handle gay and trans issues.



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41 minutes ago, Cole Parker said:

 While the school might be unable to change his name on their records until lawfully enable, why in the world couldn't the teachers and staff accommodate him by using the name he preferred in the classroom and halls?  There would be no legal objection to that.


Actually Cole I suspect there may be a legal objection. I am not certain if the instruction applies in education but suspect it does. There is a standing order from a number of government departments that people must be referred to at all times by their officially registered name. I know this applies in the prison service and in social services. This caused major problems for my ex-boyfriend who had changed his name by deed poll but found himself in a situation where he did not have proof of the deed poll and social services would not use that name for him. This caused all sorts of problems as they could not find half his records.

I do know that in the late 1990s a teacher was suspended and later dismissed after an allegation that the teacher used a nickname for a student which the student found offensive. Apparently the name Paddy was used for him by most of the students at the school, the situation resulted in him attacking the teacher which resulted in an inquiry. The report of the inquiry specifically stated that all government employees should make use only of official names.

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Actually Cole I think you might find it is one of your laws. The legal principle that the instruction was based on came from case law in the early 17th century. As such it is part of Common Law prior to the Declaration of Independence, so part of US Common Law.

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I can't imagine we have a law that says teachers can only use kids' formal names.  Teachers here regularly used kids' nicknames.  They—the kids—like that!  But if one were to object, the teacher would desist.  Generally speaking; some teachers are more formal, but I can't believe there are laws regulating this.  If there are, they're routinely ignored.


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Cole, ninety-nine percent of all laws are routinely ignored. If they weren't life would be impossible. For a start I can't remember the last time I saw a London Hackney Cab carrying a bale of hay to feed the horse. Not sure if that is still the law but it was still a legal requirement when I was living in London. By the way the shape of the London Hackney Cab is defined by the legal requirement to have sufficient room for a gentleman to sit in it wearing a top hat.

I doubt very much if your average American male over the age of sixteen and under forty is going out on a Sunday afternoon to practice with a long bow. That is one of those laws which you have inherited from us and so far as I know you have never repealed it. We only got round to repealing it this century.

There are a lot of old laws and even more old regulations which exist and are routinely ignored. Unfortunately every now and again they turn up and bite you.

I was with an officer of one of our teacher unions this morning and asked them about the rule. From what he said there is no specific rule on the use of names there is though advice from both the teacher's professional body and the Department of Education which states that teachers may refer to students either by their family name, their given name or any acceptable diminutive of the given name provided the the diminutive form is not considered offensive.

Under that rule to call somebody called Thomas Tom would be alright, however, to use a nickname like Tich would not be acceptable, even if the student asked to be known by that name.


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I checked: we do have yew trees here.  So maybe someone makes longbows.  I rather doubt it, thought.  Firearms were in use by the time we were settled.  Little use for longbows then.  Out with the old, in with the new.

We do have a great number of silly, outdated laws still on the books. They tend to be local laws, and they certainly are ignored.  Stuff like not spitting tobacco juice on sidewalks within fifty yards of a church.  That sort of thing.  It's always possible that somewhere here there's a rule about using nicknames in school.  Glad I never attended such a place.


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When I was at school it was standard practice for pupils to be addressed by their family name, with qualifiers as necessary to avoid confusion. To a large extent that applied to pupil-pupil interaction as well. The main exception would be your own peer group who might use nicknames. First names, if used at all, would only be with close friends (if you had any!) or members of staff on rare, usually informal, occasions.  It was a single sex school.

Maybe there was something to be said for it. It certainly avoided all kinds of pitfalls and pratfalls. I remember being upset when another boy's father was trying to teach me to swim. Hoping to make me feel more comfortable he used my father''s nickname for me, which I hated. I suppose it was better than my nickname at school which was very uncomplimentary. Fortunately, I managed to make sure that did not follow me when I changed schools. These days, my new nickname there would have attracted the attention of the PC Thought Police. I just saw the joke.

Yew Trees? Longbows? Perhaps the Second Amendment should be restricted to longbows. Crafted from yew by the bearer's own hand. 

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19 hours ago, Nigel Gordon said:

There are a lot of old laws and even more old regulations which exist and are routinely ignored. Unfortunately every now and again they turn up and bite you.


Or are dug up by the authorities and reinterpreted to suppress something they don't like.  

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When I was in middle school and high school on the first day of each class the teacher would ask each of us if we wanted to be called using a nickname or our given name.

I wrote a short story (Justin Case) about a teacher who might have been disciplined and the two students were moved to a different class with a different teacher (in the story; no teachers — or students — were, to my knowledge, actually harmed) for purposefully calling two students by names they found offensive.

Colin  :icon_geek:

Corrected on 9/6/2017 to change the teacher was fired to might have been disciplined and that the students were moved to a different class with a different teacher. I should have reread my story before posting!

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