Written by Graham Perry

Graham Perry M.A. Cantab FCIArb Experienced Arbitration Lawyer | China & Chinese Business Affairs | Public Speaker/Lecturer

26 August 2021


You, the Mediator, have been appointed to resolve a problem in a mixed private school arising out of gender identity issues of a 13-year-old boy pupil. Different people with different priorities are involved including the boy, his parents, the boy’s teacher, the Head, the Common Room + the Chair of Governors.

You are also aware that some of the pupils have been observed giggling about the issue. This is a private issue that could become a public issue with consequences for all of the main players.

Normally a Mediator, calls the parties in a commercial dispute to an opening session to hear their comments on the other side’s summary of the case before breaking into caucus sessions + shuttle diplomacy. In this case, the Mediator decides on a different approach + meets in a private session away from the School with each of the parties. This is arranged in different locations + takes place on the same day.

An early issue is whether he meets with the pupil in the presence of the parents. A sensitive topic. Is there an issue at home that needs to be considered, first, with the boy, second with the parents and maybe a third session with the boy + parents? You decide to take it in stages and meet first with the boy and the parents. That meeting is awkward. The boy is monosyllabic + terse whereas the father, not so much the mother, is voluble + self-centred. Eventually, the parents agree that you should have a session with the boy.

You then go to the home of the teacher – full of remorse for his casual throwaway comment that set things off. Then you visit the Head, at her home, to avoid the prying eyes of the Common Room + the pupils – it is a large school of 700 boys + girls. The Head has much to say – not so much about the initial incident – but about the wider issue of pupils’ awareness of their own identity. You are encouraged by her open-mindedness + awareness of the growing problem generally in society about gender identification. More about the Head tomorrow.



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