More than 3,500 people have signed an online petition that calls for the Daily Mail to sack its columnist Richard Littlejohn, in the wake of the death of trans teacher Lucy Meadows.

Littlejohn wrote about the teacher, who died earlier this week, in December of last year. She was found dead in a house in Accrington, Lancashire, on Tuesday.

Lancashire Police have said that there were no suspicious circumstances arising from Meadows’ death, and no link has been made between Littlejohn’s column and her death, however at time of writing the petition had attracted over 3,500 signatures.

Meadows had previously been known to pupils by her birth name, Nathan Upton.

The school supported her decision and wrote to parents in December 2012, informing them: ”Mr Upton has recently made a significant change in his life and will be transitioning to live as a woman. After the Christmas break, she will return to work as Miss Meadows.”

The letter was published in the media, outing Meadows on a national scale. Much of the coverage took a critical view of her decision, with many asking whether the transition was “appropriate” for a teacher.

The Daily Mail posted photographs of angry parents brandishing the letter on its website.

Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn also wrote about Meadows in a column, titled: “He’s not only in the wrong body… he’s in the wrong job”, which claimed her transition would be too “challenging” for children. Since her death the column has been edited to remove the reference to Meadows.

“The school shouldn’t be allowed to elevate its ‘commitment to diversity and equality’ above its duty of care to its pupils and their parents.

“It should be protecting pupils from some of the more, er, challenging realities of adult life, not forcing them down their throats.

“These are primary school children, for heaven’s sake. Most them still believe in Father Christmas. Let them enjoy their childhood. They will lose their innocence soon enough.”

He continued to write that he thought Meadows was entitled to gender reassignment surgery, but said that he thought her returning to the same school was “selfish”.

He wrote: “Nathan Upton is entitled to his gender reassignment surgery, but he isn’t entitled to project his personal problems on to impressionable young children.

“By insisting on returning to St Mary Magdalen’s, he is putting his own selfish needs ahead of the well-being of the children he has taught for the past few years.

“It would have been easy for him to disappear quietly at Christmas, have the operation and then return to work as ‘Miss Meadows’ at another school on the other side of town in September. No-one would have been any the wiser.

“But if he cares so little for the sensibilities of the children he is paid to teach, he’s not only trapped in the wrong body, he’s in the wrong job.”

Littlejohn’s column has now been removed from the Daily Mail’s website, following the news that Meadows was found dead on Tuesday.

The Change.org page reads: “No one deserves to have their lives turned upside down for their gender identity being thrown into the national spotlight.

“The reason the parents who had a problem went to the Daily mail is that their was no way to get her fired under equal opportunity law. So they tried to give the school bad press by saying how terrible it is that she is allowed to live her life freely.”