As reported in The Sunday Times this morning, Safe Schools Alliance has reported Nonsuch High School for Girls to the Department for Education over very worrying safeguarding failures and breaches of the 1996 Education Act. Our concerns include its promotion of the damaging practice of breast binding, as well as providing children with links to adult sex education sites describing fisting and chemsex.

A group of 6th formers who are part of the school’s ‘LGBTQ+ Society’ wrote a newsletter called ‘Friends of Dorothy’ which was then distributed to all pupils via the internal mail system. The school takes girls from age 11. This newsletter was distributed to pupils without informing parents.

The 9 page newsletter contained this page entitled ‘Queer Questions’.

This page contains a sidebar, added without any comment or context, titled “How Do I Bind Safely?”, with 3 links listed underneath.
A Nonsuch student clicking on A Guide To Binding Safely — Ygender will find information that tells her that breast-binding is empowering, good for mental health, and makes people happy.

Why do people bind?
People bind for all sorts of reasons: to help lessen gender dysphoria; to better express their gender identity; or just because it makes them happy. Some people will bind regularly, and others might bind infrequently, or only in certain spaces (e.g., at work, visiting family, or around friends).

Being able to express yourself in a way that feels right is a really empowering experience for a lot of trans people, and many of us bind because it makes us feel happier, confident, and affirmed.

For some people, binding is also really important for their mental health. Having to deal with dysphoria can be very distressing, and being able to alleviate that is really beneficial. It can be the difference between feeling stressed and self conscious, and being happy, safe, and able to be engage with your community.

The second link is a How-To guide: Binding Safely: Tips for All Body Types & Sizes | Point 5cc. This instructs girls with larger breasts in how to push “their tissue” out of the way before flattening it with a garment that is difficult to get on and should not be worn for more than 8 hours.

Binding for Big Chests
Getting your binder on:
For many of us (but especially for us folks with larger chests) getting that binder on the first time is a challenge! You will probably have to step into it, pull your binder up around your waist, and then fit your arms through the holes and adjust. Many folks can’t pull the binder on overhead unless it is stretched out or looser.

Try a different technique:
Some larger-chested folks recommend pushing their tissue towards their armpits, instead of letting the binder push your chest flat down in place. Some recommend pushing down-and-out, others up-and-out. You may have to adjust periodically throughout the day. Experiment to see what position works best with your body, both for looks and for comfort.

Both of the above links give very little detail on the negative side effects of binding, such as compressed or broken ribs, punctured or collapsed lungs, back pain, compression of the spine, damaged breast tissue, damaged blood vessels, blood clots, inflamed ribs, and even heart attacks.

The third link, to… acknowledges that there are side effects, but goes on to suggest that the solution to this can be to remove the breasts entirely:

Beyond binding: chest reduction surgery
According to Peitzmeir et al., roughly two-thirds of the individuals surveyed expressed interest in eventually getting “top surgery,” surgical reduction of breast tissue to permanently achieve a flatter chest.5 Discussing the option of surgery with patients can serve as a way to mitigate the negative impacts of long-term binding, since getting top surgery would reduce or eliminate the need to continue binding. There are patients, however, who either do not want or can’t afford top surgery, which costs between $3,500 and $9,000 in the United States.

In summary, when talking to patients about chest binders, it’s important to discuss the options available, the risks involved and how to minimize them, whether they want a more permanent option such as top surgery in the future, and where and how they can acquire a binder.

The parent who contacted us was horrified that her daughters had been sent this information, which she considers to be promoting self-harm.

The second sidebar is titled “Sexual Health” and provides another set of links. The top one links to the LGBT Foundation.

The justification offered by the school for this newsletter was that ““Its intention was to communicate safety advice to young people who may be considering risky practices… Interest and curiosity are not necessarily fixed to a specific age group.”

If “curious” 11-year-olds click on the links on this page, they will find details of ChemSex and guides on how to have anal and vaginal sex. The anal sex guide gives definitions for fisting and rimming.

It is deeply concerning that this school allowed this sort of material to be sent out. For a child in year 7, a newsletter sent to their school email address will be read as if the contents are authorised and recommended by the school.

In addition to all of the above, the page contains a long piece about the difference between bisexual, pansexual and omnisexual in which sexual attraction is described entirely in terms of attraction to people on the basis of ‘gender’. It is made clear that there are more than two of these (“all genders”) and therefore this is not the same as sexual attraction.

This description has no basis in scientific fact and is homophobic as it erases same-sex attraction. It goes against DfE guidelines on the responsible teaching of RSE which state that schools should ensure that all content is “evidence-based and contains robust facts and statistics” and is from a credible source.

The first page contains a link to definitions which are equally homophobic and sexist:

Hello and welcome to the first edition of Friends of Dorothy, a newsletter that
focuses on LGBTQ+ issues and topics that will be released monthly.

There are many other links given in the newsletter which describe harmful practices and promote unscientific ideology. A full list can be found on the Safe Schools Alliance Twitter feed.

Schools have a duty to safeguard pupils. The resources that they use should help to tackle sexism and avoid the promotion of partisan political views. Perhaps this school believes that by allowing their RSE resources to be written by the pupils they have relieved themselves of these responsibilities: they have not.

Parents who are concerned about the resources being used or sent out by their own schools can refer to our guide on How to Complain.

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