‘None of our pupils identify as a cat’: School shuts down widely-shared claims from right-wing press

Rye College

A school has clarified that none of their students “identifies as a cat or any other animal” after a classroom conversation on gender was leaked to the press.

It was reported that a dispute began at Rye College in East Sussex between a student and teacher when a 13-year-old child at was claimed to have rejected a classmate’s request to be identified as a cat.

During a recording of the argument, allegedly during a Year 8 life education class, a teacher is heard saying that a student had upset a fellow pupil by “questioning their identity” after the student asked, “how can you identify as a cat when you’re a girl?”

The teacher went on to say that “gender is not linked to the parts that you were born with, gender is about how you identify,” The Telegraph reported.

They added: “If you’re talking about the fact that cisgender is the norm, that you identify with the sexual organ you are born with … that’s basically what you’re saying, which is really despicable.”

A few days after the article was published, The Telegraph interviewed a separate anonymous teacher who reported that a student at their school “identifies as a cat”. 

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In a statement to Schools Week, the Aquinas Church of England Trust, which runs Rye College, clarified that “no children at Rye College identifies as a cat or any other animal”. 

The trust added that south-east regional director Dame Kate Dethridge visited the college after the dispute was reported, claiming “this meeting was a positive step, and we will continue working closely with them to ensure any appropriate action is taken”.

A spokesperson for Rye College added to Schools Week that it welcomed government guidance on trans and non-binary pupils, claiming it will be “useful in developing future training”. 

Kemi Bandeoch, minister for women and equalities, has demanded the department of education investigate the school.

The leaked guidance has been condemned by trans activists, however, with certain alleged points – such as trans children being prevented from playing competitive sports – branded “dangerous”. 

Some social media users have criticised the media’s focus on pupils reportedly “identifying as cats”, claiming it is a distraction as the cost-of-living crisis continues to worsen. 

Posting a clip of politicians speaking about the ongoing “cat” debate in the House of Commons, Politics JOE wrote: “On the same day that a ‘mortgage time bomb’ and near recession is unleashed on the people of the United Kingdom … Conservative MPs are in the House of Commons talking about whether pupils are pretending to be cats. It’s giving: ‘don’t look here’.”

In the clip, Penny Mordaunt claimed the Department for Education is currently reviewing guidance to schools on “these matters”. 

This is not the first time it has been claimed that children are “identifying as cats”, with urban myths in America about students requesting litter boxes in classrooms previously being debunked.

Insider reported in 2019 that the phenomenon was not due to children’s identities, but was instead that some teachers in Colorado had asked parents to bring in buckets of cat litter to act as a toilet if children were trapped in their classrooms due to an active shooter lockdown.

A Department for Education spokesperson told PinkNews in a statement: “It is completely inappropriate for schools to treat a pupil as an animal or inanimate object and it is important that parents are able to raise concerns with schools, and that schools engage seriously and constructively.”

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