Bullying fear leaves trans children ‘too scared’ to go to school

A hooded individual with a trans flag wrapped around them walks in the rain.

Many trans children are too scared to go to school, fearing being bullied, an investigation has revealed. 

Vice News spoke to 15 trans children who have dropped out of UK secondary schools as a result of abuse from both students and teachers. The youngsters said they are now “too scared” to go back. 

Most of the 15 are being home-schooled, but some have not received formal education for years, with all their parents admitting they’re concerned about their children’s futures. 

The government’s guidance for schools on trans pupils was finally published on 19 December. 

The non-statutory guidance uses combative language to describe trans lives and experiences and states that teachers and school staff can “decline” a request by a pupil to use the pronouns with which they identify.

It goes on to say social transitioning is not a “neutral act” and schools must take a “cautious approach” in this area. 

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The guidance outlines that responding to a pupil’s request to social transition does not include access to spaces such as toilets, showers and changing rooms.

Emily, a 15-year-old trans girl from Liverpool who is now being home-schooled, told Vice that teachers “gave up” on trying to prevent her being bullied because she received “so much” negative attention. 

She has no wish to return to school and her mother agrees it’s safer for her to learn at home. 

All the young people followed their schools anti-bullying policy but continued to be victims after investigations concluded. 

Trans boy Newton, who is also 15, said: “I had to drop out two months after starting secondary school because of bullying, and I didn’t go back into education until year 10.”

He was always “physically scared” to go into school. 

Non-binary child Olu, 14, has felt unable to go to school after enduring years of transphobic abuse. 

Six of the young people who spoke to Vice News have been recorded as “long-term” sick, meaning their care-givers won’t be fined or taken to court for their children’s absence.

The sick status should mean officials check in on families regularly, but three children claim not to have heard from their local authority or school for more than 12 months. 

Asked about the guidance, parents said teachers should “ignore” it and “actually help” the children. 

“People say they’re too young to know what they are,” one parent said, “but why would they choose this for themselves? It’s really hard to be them right now.” 

Labour MP Nadia Whittome said: “These young people’s testimonies are a reminder that far too often, school is already a difficult place to be trans. The government’s new harmful guidance is the last thing they need.”

The guidance is now in a consultation period which runs until 12 March, and parents, teachers and school leaders have been encouraged to respond. 

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