It's fascinating. Just how did the hatemail-writers know that I'm a fascist and my staff are all sex maniacs?

4th February 2011 at 00:00

We achieved a certain level of notoriety recently, featuring in the press rather more than we would have wished.

Our school was accused of sacking a teacher just because he took some pupils sledging. Obviously, the reality of the case was much more complicated than that and I can't go into it now for legal reasons. But the sudden flush of hatemail we received was fascinating in its own right.

One of the papers encouraged its readers to contact us and a great many of them did, which has been very entertaining. It could have been quite hurtful if it wasn't so bizarre. Clearly, there are people out there who have far too much time on their hands, along with access to old typewriters - still the instrument of choice in some of the remoter areas - while the skill of corresponding in capital letters using a blunt pencil clearly continues to thrive in Essex.

It is disturbing that there are those who accept everything they read at face value. If it appears in their newspaper of choice, then it must be true. So the letters are based on half truths, incomplete understanding and assumptions. A tabloid headline seems to confirm the fears of the confused elderly about the state of the world and draws out their prejudices along with lined paper and a grubby brown envelope.

One writer seems to regard 'Allo 'Allo! as a wartime documentary. Apparently, if we had been in charge "between 1939 and 1945 we'd all be speaking German now, doing the double-time goose step and calling each other Fritz and Heidi". Another letter tells me it is my fault that "the country is full of queers, tramps, no-goods, dossers and what have you". No wonder my performance management document is published in chapters.

"You should bow your head in shame," another letter tells me and I could hardly disagree, given the fact that I am responsible for raising "wimps in a litigious society". It is something I can tell my grandchildren, I suppose. "No wonder the country is in such a mess." In fact our purpose is to "grind the planet to a standstill". This explains why I am so tired at night.

The attitudes that underpin some of the letters are very disturbing and primitive. Our leadership team is described as half-wits "who speak a language no one outside of Wales can understand or would want to". How do they know? A writer from Bristol addresses the headteacher helpfully, saying that "one characteristic of the female mind which I have recognised from observation during my lifetime is that women placed in positions of authority lack the ability to use the judgment that men could make". Sadly, the rest of the letter isn't quite as reasoned or well balanced.

Much is incoherent and contradictory. In some cases, all kinds of demons have been released. We have been accused of being a den of sexual deviancy - an opinion which the merest glance around the staffroom would quickly dispel. The suggestion that the office staff are all involved in affairs with teachers is especially unpleasant. No way are they that desperate.

Mind you, the fact that the leadership team is not implicated in such things has done my self-esteem no good at all. Another letter suggests that "few of your staff are still possessed of a brain", which is a bit unkind, especially if you haven't met them. But then you are not likely to. Apparently they are usually drinking themselves into oblivion. Apart from when they are organising orgies, of course. To which, I must remind you, I am not invited.

A great deal more has arrived via email. It is reassuring to know that there is a global network of nutters now united by the internet who will fire off an email in an instant, untroubled by a lack of knowledge, always ready to confuse opinion for fact.

Apparently we are a "sad sad sad bunch of sheep" and it is no surprise that "this country is going down the tubes when people like you are in charge". I will be ostracised by my own family before long.

Email is too easy, too hasty, though it has provided me with the opportunity to be called a "cotton wool safety fascist", which is certainly a first. We did actually have an email from someone who signed it "Disgusted of Monmouth", which made me smile. And naturally I was intrigued by the suggestion that we "grow a pair!" Of what and how remains unclear.

I would like to reassure the lady in Solihull that I have never worn a reflective jacket while carrying a clipboard. Even at my age, I still have some vestiges of a sense of style. However, the anonymous email that began "I fear we are all doomed" could be the words of someone who has glanced inside my wardrobe.

I have many favourites, but the very best is almost a parody of a comedy sketch: "I broke an ankle playing football, and got burnt in metalwork, cut in woodwork ... Not only was I bullied by the other kids I was ridiculed by teachers about my height or ears ... And it made me a stronger wiser person ... Although I hated school, I still look back with some fond memories."

Geoff Brookes is deputy head of Cefn Hengoed School in Swansea.

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