Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Schoolyard safety

I was absolutely horrified today, reading my daughter's primary school newsletter, to see a note from the school's Board of Trustees about recent behaviour by parents and caregivers. According to the letter, there have recently been incidents of verbal abuse and intimidation of teachers and other school staff.

I've heard of teachers being intimidated by students before, but I'm shocked to learn that they're also being treated badly by adults. I'm now wondering how widespread this problem might be. Because teachers are a largely female workforce, are they more likely to be targets for abuse?

It's hard to know what to do about this problem. Teachers, like everyone else, are entitled to safety and dignified treatment in their workplace. Many other workplaces use safety systems to protect their staff - panic buttons, buddy systems to make sure no staff member is left alone with a 'client', dedicated interview rooms where interactions are supervised and from which the worker can make a quick escape if the 'client' behaves threateningly.

But what effect would safety measures like these have on kids, and how would they affect the relationships of trust and respect that schools are supposed to be based on? After all, a school is supposed to be a place where everyone can feel safe. I've always enjoyed warm relationships with my daughter's teachers, and have been made to feel I could always approach them and ask questions. For me, that's a key part of taking a role in my child's education, and I would hate to lose the opportunity for this sort of interaction with teachers.

I find this intimidatory behaviour from some parents really disturbing, and hope it's not common - for the sake of the teachers, and for the children who are being set a shocking example by the adults in their lives. No one deserves to be treated badly; especially not the people who provide education and care for our kids.


The ex-expat said...

My mother is a teacher and still has vivid memories of being shouted off a netball court by parents after she made a bad call. These kids were about 8 or 9 years old and it was just a regular saturday morning game. You hardly expect that the referee is going to be perfect given they are volunteers.

Janet said...

I have a friend who was a secondary school teacher, but gave it up more than 8 years ago. A large part of the reason was the behaviour of parents. Taught for less than 10 years before the lack of support and respect from parents became too much.
Since then I think it has only got worse.