Mum of girl called 'despicable' by teacher for doubting classmate's 'cat' identity hits back

20 June 2023, 08:34 | Updated: 20 June 2023, 08:56

The incident took place at Rye College
The incident took place at Rye College. Picture: Getty/Google Maps

By Kit Heren

The mother of a teenage schoolgirl who was branded "despicable" by her teacher for questioning her classmate's claim of identifying as a cat has hit back.

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The teacher, at Rye College in East Sussex, said she would report the girl, 13, to school leaders after a row sparked by the student's questioning of her fellow pupil's identity.

The unnamed staff member said she found the girl's beliefs that "cisgender is the norm, that you identify with the sexual organ you were born with" to be "despicable".

The teacher added that the girl should find another school if she continued to hold those beliefs.

The mother of one of the girls hit back, saying: "I’m so proud of my daughter, she will always stand up for what she believes is right and this is all that she did.

"She expressed a view that many, many of her classmates and their parents would share yet she was shouted down and bullied by someone in authority."

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She continued: "For that teacher to tell her to leave and go to another school if she didn’t like what she was being told made my blood boil. What kind of welcome is that for a 13-year-old girl.

The mother, who asked to remain anonymous, told the MailOnline that her daughter and her friend "put their views across and clashed with another girl in the class who identifies as a cat".

"My daughter told the teacher that what they were learning was ridiculous and the girl identifying as a cat tried to argue that it wasn’t and that anyone could identify as anything.

"As she said that my daughter replied “so If I identify as a kangaroo then I can say I'm a kangaroo?!”

"Some of the others in the class started laughing and the girl who thinks she’s a cat started crying. My daughter and her friend were told to stay after the class and were given a warning to stop and toe the line.

"That’s when she started secretly recording the teacher. I have to say that when my daughter came home from school and told me what happened. I didn’t believe her, I thought she was a typical teenage girl exaggerating.

"But then she played me the recording and I was shocked and then horrified and then furious. I still get angry listening to it.

"There are girls in her class and at the school who are trans and she has no problem with any of them, she calls them by their preferred pronouns and accepts them for who they are - but there are only two sexes. It's just science, you are born male or female.

"The fact that the school is shielding this young girl who identifies as a cat and reprimanding anyone who challenges that notion seems to me to be completely absurd.

"Why on earth are 13-year-old kids being taught about gender identity anyway? They're just children. It’s not right."

The argument took place on Friday afternoon in a class on 'life education', where students were told that "who you want to be and how you identify is up to you”.

One student asked a classmate: "How can you identify as a cat when you’re a girl?"

During the row, of which an audio recording was made, the teacher is heard to say: "How dare you – you’ve just really upset someone" by "questioning their identity".

The pupil hits back: "If they want to identify as a cat or something then they are genuinely unwell – crazy."

The teacher then asks the girls: "Where did you get this idea from that there are only two genders", adding that this "is not an opinion."

According to the Telegraph, the teacher tells the class that "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 adds that "there is 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".

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The girls disagree, because, as they say, "if you have a vagina you’re a girl and if you have a penis you’re a boy – that’s it".

Getting heated, the teacher interrupts: "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 suggests that they are homophobic and don't understand what they're talking about. The girls say their mothers would agree with them, which the teacher labels "sad".

The teacher says that “if you don’t like it you need to go to a different school", telling them: “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."

Parents reacted angrily, with some criticising the teacher for appearing to shut down the classroom debate.

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.”