A 13-year-old schoolgirl who refused to accept that a girl might want to identify as a cat was reprimanded by her teacher at a Church of England School.
The teacher told the pupil that “talking about the fact that cisgender is the norm” is “despicable”. The teacher added: “If you don’t like it you need to go to a different school.”
The girl and her classmate were at the receiving end of the reprimand by their teacher at a Church of England school in East Sussex on Friday, during a Year 8 class on “life education” in which children were told they can “be who you want to be — and how you identify is up to you”.
The teacher stepped into the debate at Rye College when one of the girls asked a fellow pupil, “how can you identify as a cat when you’re a girl?”. The teacher told her, along with a fellow pupil, that they would be reported to a senior leader and would no longer be welcome at the school if they continued to express gender-critical views.
An audio recording of the heated exchange was taken by one of the pupils and shared on TikTok. In it the teacher was heard saying, “how dare you – you’ve just really upset someone” by “questioning their identity”.
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One pupil was heard to reply: “If they want to identify as a cat or something then they are genuinely unwell – crazy.” The teacher then asked: “where did you get this idea from that there are only two genders?” The teacher added: “It is not an opinion.”
During the conversation, which was reported yesterday by The Telegraph, the teacher said “gender is not linked to the parts that you were born with, gender is about how you identify, which is what I said right from the very beginning of the lesson.”
She then said, “there’s actually three biological sexes, because you can be born with male and female body parts or hormones” and “there are lots of genders – there is transgender, there is a-gender, who are people who don’t believe that they have a gender at all”.
The girls said they “don’t agree with that” and that you “can’t have” agender because “if you have a vagina you’re a girl and if you have a penis you’re a boy – that’s it”.
The teacher interjected in a raised voice: “What do you mean you can’t have it? It’s not a law… cisgender is not necessarily the way to be – you are talking about the fact that cisgender is the norm, that you identify with the sexual organ you were born with, that’s basically what you’re saying, which is really despicable.”
The teacher accused them of being homophobic and confused, which the girls denied. And when the pupils said their mothers would be on their side, the teacher responded: “Well that’s very sad as well then.”
The teacher was then heard saying that “if you don’t like it you need to go to a different school”, adding: “I’m reporting you to [senior staff], you need to have a proper educational conversation about equality, diversity and inclusion, because I’m not having that expressed in my lesson.”
The parent of the pupil who made the recording went online to express her anger, thanking “those who have been kind and supportive” to her daughter. The recording was uploaded to some social media platforms and has been shared thousands of times. Accompanying the recording, the woman — a former councillor for a Kent district council — posted on Twitter: “The shocking state of Life Ed classes in 2023. Very proud of my daughter’s friends. Teacher calls them despicable and conflates scientific fact with homophobia. Extremist views being enforced is deeply sinister.”
Applauding the post, user Kate Tunley wrote: “What brilliant girls. Intelligent and thoughtful responses, refusing to be cowed. Very well done.”
A parent of another Year 8 pupil at the school who received the same “life education” lesson told the newspaper: “I understand the point the teacher was attempting to make. What bothers me is the shutting down of debate in such a threatening and aggressive manner, which I don’t believe is appropriate in an educational setting.
“Regardless of the subject, education should serve to build awareness of differing points of view to widen the understanding of a subject. It shouldn’t be a case of indoctrination.”
The Aquinas Trust, a Church of England organisation that manages the school along with a network of 10 others in East Sussex, Kent and south-east London, reportedly told its teachers earlier this year to “re-educate” those using “negative language” such as “that is mental” and “stop acting like a girl”.
A spokesman for Rye College said: “We are committed to offering our pupils an inclusive education. Teachers endeavour to ensure that pupils’ views are listened to, and encourage them to ask questions and engage in discussion. Teachers also aim to answer questions sensitively and honestly.
“We strive to uphold the highest standards across the school. We will be reviewing our processes and working with the relevant individuals to ensure such events do not take place in the future.”
The Telegraph said it had contacted the school and the school’s trust for further comment but had not heard back.