Schools are increasingly being caught between a rock and a hard place over pupils identifying as animals and inanimate objects.
Pupils and teachers alike are aware that such self-identification can cause disruption, yet many do not voice their concerns for fear of being cancelled.
Secondary school children are being allowed to identify as cats, horses, dinosaurs and, in one instance, a moon, according to the Telegraph.
In some reported instances, classes have faced severe disruption as pupils insist on answering teacher’s questions and communicating via animal noises.
A Church of England school teacher told a student she was 'despicable' after she challenged another classmate who identifies as a catGoogle Maps
With the Department for Education issuing vague guidance to teachers to use their ‘common sense’ over self-identifying pupils, the issue has become a reputation minefield for staff.
The Safe Schools Alliance believe children self-identifying as animals should be treated as a ‘red flag’ by teachers, advising those in positions of responsibility to implement safeguarding.
Tracy Shaw, spokesperson for the Safe Schools Alliance, said teachers should be asking themselves: “What are these children looking at online? What forums are they on? What is happening in that child’s life and who else is involved?”
However, Shaw acknowledged that teachers are treading on eggshells for “they become frightened of doing the wrong thing” after numerous recent controversies over gender identity.
Back to the drawing board for government guidance
In its investigation, The Telegraph claimed it was “not difficult to find genuine examples of children in UK schools insisting on being addressed as animals.”
The publication found one pupil at a secondary school in South West who insisted “on being addressed as a dinosaur,” while another wears a cape and identifies as the moon.
In a particularly disruptive case, the newspaper spoke to a student in Wales who claimed a classmate had identified as a cat for three years.
The pupil complained: “When they answer questions, they meow rather than answer a question in English.
“And the teachers are not allowed to get annoyed about this because it’s seen as discriminating.”
“It’s affecting other people and their education and everybody in their lessons. It’s distracting to sit in a lesson and have someone meow to a teacher rather than answer in English, especially at secondary school age.”
There is an oft blurred line between cosplay and self-identification, with many children instead adopting a ‘fursona.’
Safer Schools - an 'ecosystem' created in partnership between Zurich Municipal and the INEQE Safeguarding Group, said of cosplay furries: "These characters are often created by the community members themselves, who take them on as a 'fursona' (an alternate persona) who interacts with other ‘fursonas’ in the community via roleplaying and art."
"There have been recent rumours, claims and hoaxes about students within multiple UK schools identifying as cats and engaging in disruptive behaviours, such as crawling on all fours and demanding litterboxes be placed in toilets."