Thursday, October 20, 2011

Family told to pay £225 after boy breaks teacher’s necklace

To say i am simply fuming over this story is no exaggeration. This is injustice in the extreme. The first question that crossed my mind when reading this was why was the teacher wearing this expensive necklace in the first place. She took the risk of it being broken and deserves no compensation.

Secondly, the head teacher's comment that it was the teacher's "human right" to wear "whatever they chose to school". Firstly, teacher's like any professional, while not having to wear a uniform, have to adhere to a dress code of appropriate attire that takes into account both the respectability of the role as well as health and safety.  Also, children in schools are expected to abide by dress codes, and i was recently reading of a child being secluded because they had a "banned hairstyle" This was a different school to the one being discussed here. But the principle stands. If a teacher reported to work wearing old jeans and a torn t-shirt, they would be rightfully asked to leave and would face disciplinary action. I would argue that the necklace in this instance represented a health and safety risk.

The school in question is NOT a mainstream school, but a special school where the likelihood of a child striking out is high. Granted, it may not have occurred to the teacher that the necklace might be broken, but when it happened, while the teacher may well have justifiably been upset by the accidental damage to the necklace I do not believe she was justified in demanding £225 and I am surprised that the head teacher supported her in this.

I found it interesting that this expensive pendant was a birthday gift from the very same head teacher (and another member of staff) and wondered if the head teacher had allowed her personal friendship with the teacher to cloud her judgement in this regard. (Shades of the erstwhile Secretary of Defence.)

This can (from the child's point of view) be regarded as a accident – the child struck out in a way that is typical of children with behavioural difficulties – and inadvertently broke the necklace. He was immediately apologetic and the mother took the broken necklace to be repaired. This was not deemed sufficient and the demanded to be paid compensation. However given the economic situation that the family finds itself, it is unrealistic to expect them to pay compensation of that level.

I usually don't defend insurance companies, but I think their refusal to pay for this is warranted and the family should have followed suit. They should have told the teacher if she is that hard up, she should sue them. I would hope that a judge hearing the case would chuck it out for the same reason that the insurance company would not pay out, that the necklace was not an essential item in the classroom, and that if the teacher valued it so much she should not have worn it in the classroom. What is more, even if, as the head teacher suggests, the teacher has a "human right" to wear "whatever she likes, however impractical" – she does so at her own risk. I cannot imagine a head teacher supporting an agency staff member to this extent. The financial burden that this demand has placed on the family is simply criminal. As the mother of this child points out, the child and his family have human rights too.

Personally I would not be able sleep at night, if I knew I had deprived a family of the ability to buy a carpet and Christmas presents for three children that they had been saving up for (rather than using a credit card like so many others will do.)  In terms of necessities and luxuries, the carpet and the presents for young children are necessities, the necklace is a luxury.

Parenting a child with special needs faces parents with many demands, not least on their finances. From what i could gather from the article, only the father is working, and he does not draw a huge wage, and the mother makes a meagre £50 per week as a carer's allowance.

I do hope the council acts very swiftly to bring this matter to a conclusion, and that they demand the £202 (£190 already paid as well as the £12 paid for the repair.) is immediately repaid to the family, I would also like to suggest that in order to avoid possible victimisation of the child be granted a transfer to another school.

No comments: