Drag queens are being brought into nursery schools for storytelling sessions to teach children from the age of two about issues such as gender fluidity.
Bristol-based organisation Drag Queen Story Time (DQST) runs reading sessions with ‘queer role models’ for young children in schools, libraries and hospitals.
Launched by Bristol University Law graduate Thomas Canham, the project aims to teach children about transgender issues through storytelling, in addition to misogyny, homophobia and racism.
The 26-year-old was inspired to set up the project after learning about a similar scheme in the US named Drag Queen Story Hour.
Nursery bosses said the sessions are needed so that children encounter people “who defy rigid gender restrictions”, according to the Mail on Sunday.
They reportedly want to target two and three-year-olds in order to influence them early against hate crime.
Children this age have not yet developed any discriminatory ‘isms’, it was suggested.
But critics told the Mail that the sessions could “blind impressionable children of two and three to one of the most basic facts of human existence”.
Child psychotherapist Dilys Daws, co-author of the book Finding Your Way With Your Baby, feared the sessions could confuse young children about their own sexual identity.
She said: “There’s this idea that’s sweeping the country that being transgender is an ‘ordinary situation’.
“It’s getting so much publicity that it’s getting children thinking that they might be transgender, when it otherwise wouldn’t have occurred to them.
“But it’s perfectly normal for most young children to think about being the opposite sex. It’s probably because they are identifying with a parent or sibling.”
DQST will hold sessions at seven nurseries run by the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) over the winter, the newspaper reported.
If successful they are apparently due to be rolled out across the nursery’s 37 sites.
Sessions for the project, which started in May, include drag queens reading books on a wide range of issues, in addition to activities such as face painting or ‘drag discos’.
Drag queens available include Donna La Mode, who is described as “the Fairy Queen of the drag world”.
June O’Sullivan, chief executive of LEYF, told the Mail: “By providing spaces in which children are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions, it allows them to imagine the world in which people can present [themselves] as they wish.”
She told BBC London radio it was good to expose very young children to men who dress as women, “because children are very open until about three”.
“At three they begin to absorb all the “isms” that adults have developed very effectively,” she explained.
The latest acid attacks in north-east London on Thursday, which saw five people being sprayed with a corrosive liquid, add to a growing number of cases being reported in the UK.
Last month cousins Resham Khan and Jameel Muhktar were left with life-changing injuries after a corrosive liquid was thrown at them through a car window.
And in April clubbers in east London were caught up in an attack involving acid, which left 20 people injured.
Assaults involving corrosive substances have more than doubled in England since 2012, police figures show.
The vast majority of cases were in London.
It is legal to purchase strong acid but there have been growing calls for regulations to be tightened in the wake of recent incidents.
The National Police Chiefs Council lead for corrosive attacks, Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton, told the BBC Asian Network that reported acid attacks had seen a significant rise in percentage terms, but that compared with knife crime the number of incidents were “tiny”.
Takeaway restaurant owner Imran Khan was attacked while out delivering food in Barking, east London, in November.
He was confronted by a group of youths who demanded money and food while hurling racist abuse at him. When he got back into his vehicle they squirted a corrosive liquid in his face.
Mr Khan says the pain “overtook everything” and he feared he would be left completely blind.
He was saved from long-term damage by a quick thinking shopkeeper who washed his face with clean water at the scene of the attack.
He says the attack affected him “big time” leaving him feeling unsafe in public, especially after dark.
Weapon of choice
Attacks in London in 2016-17
Crimes using “corrosive substances”
Violence against the person
caused serious injuries, 1 was fatal
10 of which left victims with serious injuries
2 sexual offences, including 1 rape
Source: Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan Police figures obtained by the BBC show men are twice as likely to be victims of acid attacks in London than women after being linked to a number of gang crimes.
The vast majority of cases never reach trial.
Dr Simon Harding, a criminologist and expert on gangs at Middlesex University, says acid is becoming “a weapon of first choice”.
“Acid throwing is a way of showing dominance, power and control, building enormous fear among gang peer groups,” he says.
Gang members know there are advantages in using acid to hurt someone rather than a knife because “the charges are more serious if you are caught with a knife and the tariff for prison sentences are much higher”.
Dr Harding added that “acid is likely to attract a ‘GBH with intent’ charge while using a knife is more likely to lead to the attacker being charged with attempted murder”
“There’s no specific offence of throwing acid. It’s a harder offence to prove because there is rarely any DNA evidence and its much easier to dispose of a plastic bottle than it is a knife.”
Dr Harding says the government needs to attack the problem on three fronts.
He says acid is too easily available, sentencing needs to be brought into line with knife crime and a programme of education is required.
“Gang members do respond when they realise a victim of an acid attack may never work again or may need 15 or 20 plastic surgery operations.”
Physical and emotional damage.
“This is a horrendous crime, it maims, it disfigures,” ACC Kearton explains.
“What particularly disgusts me about this crime is that it’s premeditated, no-one carries acid around on the streets for any other reason than using it for this reason.
“The intention behind this is for someone to live with this for the rest of their lives.
“That is lasting physical and emotional damage, its sometimes why some people choose this as a form of attack.”
Asked what can be done to stop it she says: “To have an acid in a different bottle to the one it was purchased in can be an offence, we can also regulate volumes of sale, we can regulate ages at which people can buy it.”
Jaf Shah, from the London charity Acid Survivors Trust International says the phenomenon isn’t new and dates back to the Victorian times in Britain, but says the recent figures are shocking.
“The recent spike in attacks means the UK has the highest number of reported acid attacks per capita in the world.”
He is among those calling for regulations on the sale of acid to be tightened.
What does the law say?
There are no age restrictions on buying household bleach or drain cleaning products containing acid in the UK.
There are rules which limit the sale of certain substances under the explosives precursors and poisons (EPP) rules aimed at businesses who sell or supply such chemicals in bulk.
The Met said it was working with retailers to raise awareness that people might be buying corrosive substances to use as weapons.
But Jaf Shah wants the government to make it compulsory when purchasing corrosive chemicals to pay by card that is traceable to an individual and to make acid available only under licence.
Labour MP for East Ham Stephen Timms has tabled an adjournment debate for Monday in the House of Commons on the rise in the number of acid attacks.
About a third of last year’s acid attacks in the capital took place in the London borough of Newham, which is in his constituency.
Mr Timms says he is “most concerned about sulphuric acid” and that carrying a bottle without justification should be treated as an offence, like carrying a knife.
A video advising UK holidaymakers what to do in the event of a terror attack abroad has been released by police.
The four-minute film depicts a firearms attack unfolding at a hotel and uses the “run, hide, tell” safety message.
Thirty British tourists were among 38 people killed when a gunman attacked a Tunisian beach resort in June 2015.
Counter terrorism police said there is no specific intelligence Britons will be targeted this summer and the film is part of a general awareness campaign.
But Det Ch Supt Scott Wilson told the BBC it was “only right” to offer advice following the terror attacks in London and in Sousse, Tunisia.
“These people are not there to steal a mobile phone or steal your watch, they are there to kill you, you have to get yourself out of that danger zone,” Mr Wilson told the BBC.
“It’s very unlikely [that you will be caught up in a terror attack].
“It’s very much like the safety briefing you get on an aeroplane before it takes off – it’s very unlikely that plane is going to crash, but it’s very important you are given that knowledge of what you should and what you shouldn’t do.”
The video has been produced with the Foreign Office and travel association Abta.
Mr Wilson said 23,000 representatives from major UK holiday companies at resorts all over the world had been trained in what to do in the event of a terror attack as well as how to spot suspicious items and activity.
Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “While there is no specific information that British holidaymakers will be targeted this summer, it sets out some simple steps we can all take to minimise the impact of an attack if one does take place.”
The run, hide, tell message was first introduced by police in December 2015.
If there is a safe route run
Insist others go with you, but do not let their indecision slow you down
An English religious school for Orthodox Jewish girls age three to eight may be forced to close “because it does not teach its students about gender reassignment or homosexuality,” reports Eliot Kaufman at National Review.
The UK’s Office of Standards in Education says it will “not relent in its application of the 2010 Equalities Act” against the Vishnitz Girls School.
The law is being interpreted to “force prepubescent girls to learn about sexual orientation.
And if that violates the teachings of their faith, the bureaucrats maintain, the faith shall have to change. If it won’t, the kids will have to lose their school.” Ironically, officials admit the school “appears to excel at teaching secular subjects — a challenge for many Orthodox schools.”
But they’re demanding full exposure to “fundamental British values.” This, says Kaufman, “is nothing short of the imposition of secular dogma.”
“Kindness is a luxury on the battlefield, where survival takes priority over everything else,” says Richard Fernandez at PJ Media, and “the UK is running low on counter-terror resources,” with not enough police to watch the reported “23,000 jihadist extremists living in Britain.”
Indeed, all “Europe is beginning to admit it doesn’t have enough hard force to deal with the new threats” — hence “the reliance on candles, tweets, dimmed lights,” and so on. But “when the candles stop working, they will be forced to Plan B” — “making the descent from the Marquess of Queensberry Rules to street fighting inevitable.” In the end, “an unsustainable program of political correctness killed the very thing it swore to protect.”
Samurai swords, axes and air guns are among the 2,579 weapons seized from schools in England and Wales, Freedom of Information requests have shown.
Press Association analysis of data from 32 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales said the weapons had been found in two years to March 2017.
Police chiefs said there had been a “worrying” increase in young people carrying knives.
There are about 25,850 schools in England and Wales.
Heads said children’s safety was their top priority and that schools worked closely with police to protect pupils.
In 2016-17 alone, 1,369 weapons were found – a rise of almost 20% on the previous year.
A fifth of the overall incidents related to knives or swords.
Other weapons confiscated included at least 26 guns, including air guns and an imitation firearm.
More unusual seizures included a police baton, a rolling pin, a can of beer and a 15in (38cm) metal rod.
At least 47 children below the age of 10 – the age at which someone can be prosecuted – were found with weapons.
This included three five-year-olds, one of whom was caught with a knife, while another was found with a “missile” – typically a brick or a rock.
The Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police were among the forces to respond to the survey.
Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock, the National Police Chiefs Council lead for knife crime, said: “Carrying a weapon of any kind in schools is not an issue for a school to deal with alone; police and partners will always be willing to work with them and take appropriate action.
“We have recently seen an increase in young people carrying knives, and this is worrying.
“We are responding to this trend by targeting those who carry them illegally and working with retailers to reduce the sale of knives to under-age people, through nationally co-ordinated operations.
“Police involvement in schools, whether it be officers delivering talks and interactive sessions or based in schools themselves as part of the Safer Schools Partnership, helps us to educate young people and explain why carrying a weapon illegally is never acceptable.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Schools work closely with the police to protect and educate their pupils, and in some cases police officers are stationed in schools.
“Where appropriate, schools conduct searches and use metal detectors, and they implement robust disciplinary procedures against anyone found in possession of a weapon.”
The figures come amid a crackdown on knife crime in schools by some forces.
Earlier this month, the Metropolitan Police announced officers would be working with schools to highlight the potential consequences of carrying a knife.
It follows the case of Ann Maguire, who was stabbed to death at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds in April 2014 by a 15-year-old pupil.
The following year, teacher Vincent Uzomah was seriously injured when he was stabbed at Dixons Kings Academy in Bradford by a racist pupil.
On April 21, police in Manchester in northern England, said a pregnant woman and a man suffered “severe discomfort” when someone threw bleach in their eyes from a passing car.
“It’s a growing problem, there’s no question,” said Jaf Shah, executive director of Acid Survivors Trust International, a London charity that supports victims, predominantly in South Asia, where acid attacks are more common.
Shah said acid attacks in other countries usually involve men targeting females. The reasons are often over spurned marriage proposals or sexual advances. In Britain, young men are mainly targeting other young men in violence that is often gang-related. British law is not specific about banning acid as a weapon, so gang members may use it to avoid prosecution, he said.
Even so, acid attackers are often convicted of assault or a more serious charge of grievous bodily harm, which carries a maximum life sentence. Since 2015, the government has required vendors to report suspicious transactions involving sulfuric acid to police because it can be used to manufacture explosives.
“(Corrosive substances) are extremely easy to get hold of (in Britain). You can buy them from hardware stores and don’t have to register why you’re purchasing it or what you want to use it for,” said Simon Harding, a professor of criminology at London’s Middlesex University.
“If you throw (acid) in someone’s face it’s going to affect their eyes and eyesight so you have a high chance of getting away with it. It’s a very easy thing to do. You can ride up to someone on a bike and throw it at them.”
By contrast, guns are very hard to get in Britain, unlike in the United States. As a result, there are only 50 to 60 gun homicides in England and Wales each year, a rate of about one for every 1 million people, according to the Geneva Declaration of Armed Violence and Development, a multinational organization. In the U.S., about 30 per 1 million people are killed in gun homicides. The Gun Violence Archive, a database of gun-related violence in the U.S., says 13,286 people were killed and 26,819 injured by firearms in the U.S. in 2015.
Victims of acid attacks say they must deal with life-long repercussions. Australians Prue Fraser, 20, and her sister, Isobella, 22, were among those sprayed at the Mangle club.
“I ended up in the middle of this fight and I was thrown over the barrier near the bar with all my stuff,” Prue Fraser told the London Evening Standard. “Getting up I could feel my arm was burning. It was like boiling water had been poured over me but like I was cut as well. I have never experienced anything like it, it was excruciating. We saw six other girls who had it in their eyes, faces and chest areas they were screaming and crying.”
Isobella Fraser said she sustained third-degree burns on her arms and back.
Daniel Rotariu, 31, of Leicester in central England, was blinded in both eyes and suffered burns to 32% of his body when his lover, Katie Leong, threw sulfuric acid on him as he slept following an argument last July. Leong, 52, was convicted of attempted murder in March and sentenced to life in prison.
“I have nightmares. … I see it every day, every hour, like it was yesterday,” Rotariu said in his victim-impact statement in court. “More than half of my life I’m gonna have to live it like this. … Sometimes I wish I was dead and I didn’t survive.”