Abuse fear creates a culture of suspicion

14th April 2006 at 01:00
I read with dismay how easily those of us who work in and care about education can suddenly be the subject of spurious or unfounded allegations ("Don't leave us on our own", Friday magazine, March 31) .

The misinterpretations of teachers' actions described in the article are as dangerous as they are ridiculous.

I am a headteacher who has worked closely with social services over the years on child protection. We have shared our frustrations when it has been obvious that something has occurred, yet little could be done for lack of hard evidence.

Conversely, I am incredulous that, in cases where there is so clearly an innocent and logical explanation from a trusted colleague, the full weight and resources of the law are exercised.

While there are virtues in being proactive, there are dangers in seeing potential demons in every situation.

I value the work done by my colleagues for the benefit of our students, and do not presume they have an ulterior or darker motive for doing it.

Colleagues who spend much of their lunch hours in the company of students are with them because they enjoy their company and take the professional relationship they have with them seriously.

My heart goes out to the people described in your article and their families as I once worked with a close colleague whose career, health and life were destroyed by malicious allegations.

I hope our professional associations and our elected representatives are awake to the dangers of creating a society of suspicion. They must act now to achieve a sensible balance between protecting the interests of all children and ensuring that we indulge neither the mischievous nor the malicious by automatically presuming their allegations are true.

Modern children and young people need more than ever the presence of caring adults in their lives, whom they can see as approachable, stable and trusted mentor figures.

Let us comprehensively check all those who have access to children, but let us also respect their integrity unless there is hard evidence to the contrary.

Stephen Lupton

Headteacher

RM Grylls middle school

Second Avenue, Hightown, Liversedge, West Yorkshire

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