Teachers at a school on the Isle of Man have faced death threats over false reports that children had been left “traumatised” by inappropriate and graphic sex education taught by a drag queen, the island’s government has said.
Staff at Queen Elizabeth II school had faced a “tirade of abuse” ranging from “threats to turn up at the school, demands for staff to be dismissed, to demands for people to be arrested and executed”, according to the education minister Julie Edge.
It came after various news reports that a drag queen told a child to leave the class after they said there were only two genders and that children were taught about oral and anal sex, as well as being shown graphic pictures of gender reassignment surgery, in September last year.
The government launched a three-stage independent investigation in response to the claims and found the reports were “inaccurate” and had had a “detrimental impact” on staff at the school.
“Public references to a drag queen delivering a session at a drop-down day at QEII in September 2022 are inaccurate, but it is understood that the guest speaker referred to does occasionally perform as a drag artist,” Edge told the island’s parliament.
The report found that at no point did a speaker remove a child from the classroom and that sex was not mentioned in the class at all, which was wrongly reported as a sex education lesson.
The investigation found that a child had asked how many genders there were and the speaker, who had been invited as a guest to talk about “gender-neutral language and the concept of gender in the LGBTQ+ environment”, responded that there could be as many as 72 gender identities.
Later, a child was briefly taken outside the classroom by a teacher to “remind the pupil of the school’s expectations that all pupils are entitled to their own opinions, and that they do not have to agree with a guest speaker, but they do have to show respect”.
Edge said “a number of pieces of the information have been conflated and misrepresented”, including a video showing a document about trans issues purporting to be from the school, which was not.
One resident told the Guardian how reporting of the story had triggered a “tsunami of bigotry, to put it mildly” in response.
Another resident and an LGBTQ+ advocate, Alan Shea, described the reports and the resulting social media comments as “despicable”.
“It is absolutely outrageous what these people are saying – it’s like we’re living in the dark ages,” he said.
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Shea also received threatening messages after speaking to the local paper about the hate the school was getting, claims that are being investigated by the police.
Edge said the power of social media to “mislead and, as such, negatively impact our community” should be recognised.
“In this instance, social media has turned elements of a community against a school, a school that served that community loyally for many years. It has also caused elements of our wider community to turn against each other.”
She added: “There have been malicious accusations and comments, which continue to be received by our staff and myself directly through emails, letters, telephone calls and shared across social media platforms, and they have continued to have a detrimental impact upon many individuals.”