Facing death threats'

14th February 2003 at 00:00
Punching, kicking, death threats and flying furniture: no it's not a drunken brawl but rather reported incidents at schools. Raymond Ross talks to teachers and union leaders about the increase in aggressive behaviour

A primary headteacher says: "I have had my life threatened twice by parents, both very frightening experiences.

"When a parent who lives in a violent milieu threatens to lie in wait for you at the end of the day, you have to take your personal safety seriously.

"One of the most unsettling aspects can be the lack of support from the local authority. There is a level of tolerance of this kind of behaviour which I have found mind-boggling.

"This parent had threatened to kill another teacher because the teacher had the audacity to enquire why his child had been absent the week before. I was called and, as the parent continued to be threatening, he was asked to leave the school. It was at this point that he threatened me with murder.

"Naively, I assumed the education authority could and would take out an injunction to prevent the parent entering the school. But this was not the case, because it was the first occasion the parent had behaved like that.

He received a warning letter instead.

"It seemed to me quite outrageous that an adult could behave like this in a primary school with children actually witnessing it - it was in a corridor outside a classroom - and yet there was no proper mechanism to say you can't behave like that in a school.

"I don't think people who threaten your life should be allowed back into schools.

"I didn't allow the threat to affect my outward behaviour but it remained in the back of my mind for a long time, especially when leaving school on a dark night.

"The thing is, how do you assess the level of real risk when you are threatened like that? It's impossible. But this parent was a drug addict and was known for violent behaviour.

"On another occasion, a parent who appeared psychotic and who had been in Barlinnie Prison, in Glasgow, more than once for violent offences, threatened to kill me. Eventually an injunction was taken out against him after he abused me verbally twice more, threatening violence both times."

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