Two Guide leaders who had raised safeguarding concerns about the organisation’s transgender policy have been expelled and had their units closed down.
Dozens of children face disappointment because there is no one else to run the units. The expelled leaders say they will take legal action against Girlguiding if their removals are upheld.
Helen Watts, one of 12 leaders who signed a letter to The Sunday Times in April asking for a review of the policy, was told on Friday that her membership was being terminated after more than 15 years with the Guides.
At least one other signatory, based in the northwest of England, was expelled. Documents seen by The Sunday Times suggest disciplinary investigations have been launched against at least five Guide leaders.
Watts, the leader of a Rainbows unit for girls aged 5 to 7 in Ealing, west London, said: “I am very upset and I am also really angry. We had some serious concerns about a policy that ignored basic safeguarding principles.”
Watts was told she was being removed because she was “not willing to follow Girlguiding’s equality and diversity policy in so far as it provides for transgender inclusion”. She was also accused of calling a fellow volunteer a “nightmare” on a private Facebook group visible to 20 people.
Since last year the Guides have allowed male-bodied trans adults who self-identify as women to be Guide leaders and trans children who self-identify as girls to be members. On trips the children can share lavatories, showers and sleeping accommodation. The policy says parents should not be told if their daughter’s leader, or a child, is transgender.
Watts said: “The policy puts all leaders in a really difficult position. It contradicts other inclusion policies — for certain faith communities for instance — and it completely contradicts existing policies around informed parental consent.”
A parent from Watts’ unit, said she was shocked at the decision: “Helen is amazing. My daughter loves her — she is so professional and she makes the parents and the children feel so welcome. It’s a real shame what has happened.”
Another expelled leader said: “I was told my membership was revoked, I had to shut my unit down and I was not allowed to talk to the girls or their parents. They said I was refusing to follow Girlguiding procedures. I told them I would follow any procedure unless it conflicted with the safety of a girl in my care.”
She was also accused of being disrespectful on social media, but said Girlguiding had not given her any examples.
Girlguiding said: “Two individuals were found to have breached our volunteer code of conduct and social media policy and sanctions have been applied accordingly” and added that the expulsions were “not based on the individuals’ personal views”.