Problem dad is wasting our time

29th September 2006 at 01:00
The amount of time Mr Lister has demanded has been huge. Everything brings him to the phone or the school door. An alleged comment, an inaccurate spelling correction, even someone pushing into the dinner queue. Clearly the man has problems, but as he works them out he takes so much time away from everyone else.

We had a local drama group in school, a worthy little piece about drugs and a small contribution to the personal and social education programme.

Everything seemed to go well. Then the next day Mr Lister is at my door. A member of the cast swore at his daughter when they were leaving. He was demanding retribution.

My best guess is that it did not happen. Mr Lister has a reputation for being particularly difficult, and it is funny how these things happen to some people and not to others.

As far as I am concerned, he is a troublemaker. The man has form. Nothing in the junior school ever suited him. Everything about education has always been a problem. He doesn't like school and he doesn't like teachers.

Generally this would not be my problem But the energy and attention he demands is extreme, the time wasted on his behalf is huge.

I have to contact the drama group because of course there is always a chance it might be true. An investigation is held. A member of staff questioned, a report written. The level of anxiety generated must have been huge. The drama group write to me.

"The purpose of this letter is to update you regarding a complaint we received from Mr Lister and the subsequent steps we have taken." We are obliged to waste time on a known nutter.

He has had professionals running around at his beck and call. It must all bring him some kind of gratification.

Of course what he has is a particular view of education. Schools are places of conflict. He believes the world is out to get his little girl and will succeed if his attention is distracted, even for a moment.

He has to deal with his own unhappiness but he needs to stop involving others in it. Every complaint he makes is taken seriously. There is always the "what if.." question. So we smile and give him time he does not deserve.

There are times when we need to be a little forceful. Perhaps we are foolish to invite people to park their problems slap bang in the middle of our day. There is an offence of wasting police time. Why can't it apply to us?

Ian Roe is a teacher in north Wales

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