What keeps me awake at night - We were told to lie to placate a difficult parent

17th May 2013 at 01:00

At a recent parents' evening, an incident occurred that has destroyed morale within our school and left several staff seeking new jobs.

A colleague was talking to the mother of a particularly difficult child and was explaining how that child misbehaved and disrupted classes. The mother, as is often the case, was not pleased. However, she took it a step further than most parents by refusing to believe that her son was at fault and immediately seeking out the principal to complain.

The gist of the mother's argument was that the teacher in question was lying, that any failure was the teacher's and that her son was being let down by the school and she would be writing a letter to the school governors and the local council.

Rather than defending the staff member in question, the principal was non- committal and weak, making vague comments about "seeking to look into the issue". She then went to see the teachers who were still due to meet the mother that evening and instructed those teachers not to say anything bad about that child.

I was one of those staff and could not believe what I was hearing. We all knew this child was a problem and that talking to the mother would be crucial in dealing with his issues. That the principal was refusing to back the staff member who had done so and was now asking the rest of us to lie seemed ridiculous.

However, because of the way the school is run, not complying with the principal's request would have severely damaged our professional positions and so we complied. We all felt horrendous as a result.

Since that day, the teacher who did tell the truth has sent out several applications for new jobs and, thankfully, has not blamed us for what we feel was a real betrayal. Several other members of staff are contemplating their positions as well.

While it may have been a quick fix to deal with a difficult parent in a public situation, I really feel the principal let herself and her staff down.

I, too, will be seeking job opportunities elsewhere.

The writer is a teacher in the South West of England.

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