A contentious employment tribunal unfolds at the Bristol Civil Justice Centre as a Wiltshire teacher, Kevin Lister, challenges his dismissal from New College Swindon for alleged gross misconduct over pronoun use.

The crux of the matter revolves around Lister’s refusal to utilise a student’s preferred pronouns, marking a clash between personal beliefs and institutional policy.

According to testimonies presented before the tribunal, Lister, aged 60, declined to address a 17-year-old biologically female student, referred to as “Student A,” by their chosen male name and pronouns.

This stance, categorised as gross misconduct, led to Lister’s termination in September 2022.

“Compelled speech”

The unfolding narrative reveals that the student, identified as Student A, communicated their desire to be addressed by a different name and male pronouns to the college in September 2021. However, when Lister was notified of this request via email, he raised concerns with the college, citing safeguarding issues and questioning the link between the student’s academic performance and their preferred pronouns.

During his testimony, Lister emphasised the concept of “compelled speech,” asserting that he and fellow students were obligated to comply with Student A’s wishes, irrespective of their own beliefs. He underscored his discomfort with being expected to facilitate what he termed as the “social transition” of students, a responsibility he deemed beyond his role as a mathematics teacher.

An unfair dismissal?

Lister’s legal battle extends beyond his dismissal. He is contesting unfair treatment, discrimination, or victimisation based on his religious beliefs. Furthermore, he alleges suffering a detriment or dismissal due to exercising rights under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

Central to Lister’s defense is the assertion that as an educator, he has an obligation to teach factual information. He contends that college policies extend beyond the boundaries set by the Equality Act, branding them as “illegal.”

The tribunal continues to unravel complex layers of belief, policy, and individual rights, shedding light on broader societal debates surrounding gender identity, freedom of expression, and the responsibilities of educators. As the proceedings unfold, the outcome of this case stands to set significant precedents in navigating the delicate balance between personal convictions and institutional obligations within educational settings.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.