Let teachers sue false accusers for libel, union says

Sue Learner

A teachers' union in Wales is calling for the parents of children who make false allegations against teachers to be sued for libel, writes Sue Learner.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers Cymru said the move would make parents think twice about making an allegation and make them directly responsible for their child's behaviour. Geraint Davies, NASUWT Welsh regional official, said: "Teachers should be able to sue the parents. The law needs to be changed. Parents have a legal responsibility for their children but have chosen to abdicate it. Parents are failing their own children and they are failing our schools. The problem of discipline starts not with the schools but within the home."

Mr Davies was a teacher for 22 years and was himself victim of a false allegation. He said: "The child was about to be taken into care and the father wanted to deflect attention away from himself. I was cautioned and investigated by the police. I was made to feel like a criminal - it was sheer hell."

But Edwyn Williams, general secretary of the UCAC Welsh teachers union, thinks suing parents would be going too far. He said: "It would cause too many complications. I think parents should be made aware of the consequences of making an allegation but often it is the child who make the allegation. I don't think children are aware of how serious making an allegation can be."

The seven Welsh teaching unions made a joint plea at the national Eisteddfod in Denbigh this week for greater protection for teachers. This comes in the wake of the case of Marjorie Evans, the head who was suspended for 18 months after a false allegation was made against her.

Unions have called for:

* a quicker disciplinary process;

* the right of the teacher to remain anonymous until the case is proved;

* no automatic suspension, teacher only to be suspended if a child is at risk; and * the right of a school to permanently expel pupils.

With more allegations against staff and a rise in unruly behaviour, the Professional Association of Teachers and Powys county council are pioneering a restraining technique course for teachers. But some unions fear that this could create yet more problems.

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