Allegations and delays

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
I've read some awful tabloid articles and editorials in the near four years since Natalie King left Dyce Academy, but your editorial on bullying last week is the most shocking I've seen and is a disgrace to educational journalism.

Your paper fell into the same trap as the makers of the BBC Panorama programme on April 10 in that you chose to believe the word of a teenage girl and her father before the evidence from the headteachers, senior managers and teachers of the five different schools Natalie King attended in as many years.

Secondly, unless you have decided you are the judge and the jury, there is the small matter of the pending court case. Until such time as Natalie King's stories are proved correct in a court of law, you must state that these are merely allegations.

You state: "It will also strike people how laboriously slow the process is: the Dyce case was first headlined in 2003," Yet another mistake by yourselves - the Sunday Mail front page of September 30, 2001, read:

"Second Scots pupil to sue school".

If you think that the delay was caused by Aberdeen City Council, you could not be further from the truth. I would contend that the delay was caused by Natalie King's lawyers' slow submission of paperwork to the Scottish Legal Aid Board. The priority of the lawyers seemed to be feeding stories to tabloid hacks (and I have dozens of press cuttings to prove it) about how incompetent schools are at dealing with bullying instead of rushing to get the case processed.

However, this stressful delay for the King family and the five north-east schools associated with the case has an upside. At least parents in Scotland now know who to contact should they wish to sue their local authority.

Clearly this is one option open to parents who are suffering the heartache and worry of their children having relationship difficulties but there is a better one. I have been there as a parent, and we eventually managed to resolve the difficulties for my son by calmly and quietly sitting down with the staff in his primary school and then following agreed strategies. The thought of contacting a certain Glasgow lawyer never crossed my mind.

What your editorial should have concentrated on was the infringement of the rights of the teacher (not teachers as you stated) who was secretly taped.

Thousands of teachers who watched Panorama must have been worried at the prospect of their sensitive work with troubled children being secretly taped, especially as we all know that tapes can be doctored.

If only I could persuade the lawyers of Aberdeen City Council to lift their ban on me speaking to the media, I could tell you so much more.

After all, what is the point in waiting for a court case? Let's just try the case in the media. After four years of lies, deceit and grief, I'm up for it.

Grant Bruce

Depute headteacher

Dyce Academy

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