Stories of schoolchildren identifying themselves as different types of animals rather than humans were previously dismissed as exaggerations by British authorities and policy makers. However, according to the British media, it is now not at all difficult to find accounts of pupils demanding to be treated or addressed as cats and horses, for example.
It is reported that a student who refused to accept that a classmate identified as a cat was reprimanded by his teacher and that “other children at other schools are also identifying as animals”. Examples have also been found of school children demanding to be treated as dinosaurs and horses – and another child identifying as the moon.
A pupil in Wales also reports that one of his classmates has identified as a cat for three whole years and answers the teacher’s questions with “meow” instead of speaking English.
– The teachers are not allowed to get annoyed about this because it’s seen as discriminating, the student reports and adds that the classmate feels very discriminated against if you do not refer to them as ‘catself’.
In the past, both student organizations and school administrations have denied that children identify as other species or that this would be encouraged by staff.
There have also been reports of students in British schools “identifying as cats and engaging in disruptive behaviours, such as crawling on all fours and demanding litterboxes be placed in toilets”, which was mainly dismissed as “conservative” rumor mongering.
Safer Schools, a UK organization that works to protect students, says parents and teachers “shouldn’t overreact” or “ridicule” children who are “furries” – a subculture that either dresses or identifies as different animals. It also acknowledges that there is a risk that these children “become so engrossed in an alternative reality that they disconnect from their everyday life”.
However, Tracy Shaw of the Safe Schools Alliance believes that a child coming to school and demanding to be treated like an animal should be considered alarming and should not be encouraged in any way by the school:
– The problem is that teachers have a blind spot where anything involving identity comes in, because they are frightened of doing the wrong thing. They think they are being kind by affirming these behaviours, but they are not being kind, because they are likely to be missing all sorts of things that are going on in that child’s life, Shaw says.