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This excuse for spitting is so hard to swallow

Spitting. It's not nice, but recently it seems to have come back into fashion for some students. These tend to be the ones you might describe as "disaffected youth" rather than those on the Knitting for Pleasure or Preparing for Retirement courses.

It's got so bad in some colleges that they've had to put up No Spitting notices in all the outdoor areas. No doubt they've had to undertake a hasty revision of their disciplinary codes, given that most of them would have been formulated for more enlightened times. It was 1969 when I last saw a sign prohibiting spitting in public - strategically placed next to the no smoking sign on the bottom deck of a Rotherham Corporation bus.

I'd always assumed that the signs were only aimed at students, but since reading about a certain Mr Antonino R - for some reason his full name is never given - I've had to revise my opinion. Antonino is, or was, a teacher in the Sicilian capital, Palermo. Last month he was up in court, accused of spitting at his principal.

Reports referred to the incident taking place at a "Palermo training institute", which sounds pretty much like the Sicilian equivalent of an FE college to me. At a meeting between teachers and the female principal, Antonino was said to have spat three times in her direction.

While not denying that he spat, Antonino claimed that because his mouth was dry from the shouting match that preceded the incident, the spit could never have reached her. As, however, he yelled: "I'm putting perfume on her," between spits, his intentions were pretty clear. It's fair to say, too, that the hot-headed teacher was not short on "front". The spitting, he claimed, was his way of expressing his opinion about the principal's oppressive behaviour.

Italy's Supreme Court upheld a previous decision that Antonino had acted improperly. What action was taken against him wasn't reported.

But what might have happened had the decision gone the other way? Quick as you like, there would have been an EU directive making spitting at their principal every lecturer's right.

With all those governors' lunches to attend and the problem of what to do with their six figure salaries, you might think that a principal's life is difficult enough already without having to go home every night covered in spit!

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