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Dinner Lady Sacked for Telling Parents About School Bullies

Dinner Lady Sacked for Telling Parents About School Bullies

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A dinner lady at a primary school in Essex was dismissed last week for a ‘breach of pupil confidentiality’ after she informed the parents of a 7 year-old girl that she had been tied up and whipped by a group of boys at playtime.

An article in the Times Online suggests a further complication – that one of the boys involved is the son of a school governor and that this may have influenced the decision.

Two Questions for School Governors

This unfortunate event throws up two distinct questions for school governors:

  1. Which should take precedent, the safety and wellbeing of pupils or the adherence to the ‘letter’ of regulations? Is this a ‘no-win situation’?
  2. How should governing bodies deal with potential conflicts of interest?

No Room For Common Sense?

It would be easy to condemn the decision by the governing body (and to be clear, this commentator is firmly on the side of dinner lady) but is this simply a bad decision or one almost ensured by legislation governing how schools must act?

Even if we ignore the potential conflict raised by the involvement of another governor’s son, we have to consider whether the increasingly letigious nature of our society encourages these kinds of seemingly counter-intuitive reactions.

Although the dinner lady’s lawyer was not permitted to attend the dismissal hearing, the school’s legal representatives and a human resources adviser from Essex County Council were present to advise the board.

Assuming these are reasonable people – is there no longer any room for common sense?

In Whose Interest?

The issue of conflicts of interest is also not an isolated one. Many governors are also parents. This is clearly good for schools but will inevitably lead to situations like these.

The governor whose son was allegedly involved was not involved in the dismissal hearing but it’ll be a hard sell to convince parents and outside observers that there was no influence.

What do you think?

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