Public Service and zero tolerance?

We had a meeting today where we talked about incidents where parents verbally abuse by shouting, swearing and threatening teaching staff – headteachers included.  Fortunately such incidents are rare but when it does happen – I’ve had my share in my time – it’s very distressing and threatening (and I’m big and ugly).

I can understand why it sometimes occurs – parents are upset; stressed; they may feel their child is not being treated properly; they may have strong negative emotions from their own days at school – but are these reasonable excuses? Such incidents can happen to any headteacher – regardless of experience or skills – so what should we do?

We certainly don’t want to get to the point where we put things in place which prevent normal communication between schools and the majority of parents. However, many services such as transport and health now make it very clear that they will not tolerate such abuse from service users and have taken steps to actively tackle the problem. 

A key element of many strategies is appropriate training for all staff and that would link with some of the descalation work we are currently involved.  I wouldn’t want anyone reading this to think that we want parents kept out of schools – in fact quite the reverse. How would parents feel if such information about this topic went out in school newsletters? 

3 thoughts on “Public Service and zero tolerance?

  1. In a fair world, I imagine that parents would feel the same as they do upon seeing notices about abuse on the walls of a hospital or the interior of a bus i.e. it’s fair enough, they agree with the sentiment but, for the most part, it doesn’t refer to them and therefore is not taken personally. Any law abiding person is not going to feel less welcome in a hospital or on a bus on the strength of such a notice – if anything, a little more safe.

  2. De-escalation training has its place, but it would be better to reduce the risk of these events occurring in the first place than to become better at dealing with them.

    The need for such training might be seen by parents as indicative of an underlying problem. Any newsletter information should try to put the training into that wider context by showing what else is being done.

  3. Putting this information into a school newsletter Don would not faze me or the majority of parents who can reasonably discuss a problem. Unfortunately it is a sad reflection of the dumbing down of society by the minority at the expense of the majority who have let go the reins. Set the standards and protect your staff!

    Parent with Standards

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