Q. When we excluded a badly behaved boy, his father went to the local newspaper, alleging that his son had been seriously bullied, that the teachers had ignored it and had mistreated him. The paper carried the story on its front page. What should we do?
A. Keep your nerve. This kind of retaliation may well be a way of avoiding facing the reality of the son's bad behaviour. If the exclusion was justified, the parent's response does not make it any less so and the normal procedures should take their course.
It is disappointing that the paper should publish the story without seeking your version of it. You will need to conduct an investigation to ensure that there is nothing in the parent's allegations which would stand up to scrutiny. Then issue a statement to the press, denying the fact of bullying in this instance and outlining the school's policy on bullying generally.
You will not wish to refer to the pupil by name, but you may wish to include something in your statement to the effect that the parent who made the allegation is due to have a meeting with the school to discuss incidents relating to his son.
As always in such cases, it is necessary, as far as possible, to avoid allowing the parent's actions to influence what needs to be done for the pupil.
The two issues should be kept entirely separate when meeting the parent. Give a calm and reasoned response to the allegation and then discuss what is to be done about the exclusion. It would probably be as well to have a reliable witness present at this interview.
Questions should be sent to Helpline, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171 782 3200. e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org. co.uk