Dingwall letter writers return

Dingwall Academy will attempt to get back to normal next week when the last of the eight girls excluded for running a hate campaign against a woman teacher return to their classes. Four were readmitted on Wednesday.

In an extraordinary series of events at the 1,180-pupil school, seven third-year girls and a first-year pupil were charged by police and suspended for between two and three weeks after admitting sending "abusive and highly offensive letters" to Sandra Reid, a history teacher and assistant principal teacher of guidance.

The girls were unable to offer any explanations for their conduct. A report is now being prepared by the Reporter to the children's panel who has the power to send the girls to a full hearing which would normally be chaired by Sandy Glass, headteacher of Dingwall Academy. But he does not preside in cases involving the school's pupils.

Staff and pupils took immediate steps this week to quash any suggestion that discipline at the school is out of control. They have been particularly angered by claims from an anonymous teacher in the Ross-shire Journal last week that staff are afraid to discipline pupils for fear of retribution.

A letter to the paper signed by 93 staff, almost the entire complement, adds that if "intimidation of staff is endemic" it was remarkable that so many teachers had chosen to devote most of their careers to the school.

The four school captains have also written to the paper expressing "displeasure and anger" at "grossly unfair" coverage. "The discipline in the school is accepted by the pupils and is considered as being fair," they state.

Mr Glass told The TES Scotland this week that the girls had not been in trouble before. "I can only believe it was a prank that went wrong. They got a buzz out of it, particularly since it went on for some time without anybody being able to identify who was responsible," he said "It rather reminds me of Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, and its portrayal of mass hysteria among young women."

The girls and their parents will sign good behaviour contracts, which the Government wants all schools to adopt. The parents have already expressed their regrets to the school although one is appealing against the exclusion, demanding that it be expunged from her daughter's record.

None of the eight will be returning to Mrs Reid's classes.

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