Stop Press – The Headteacher Responds


Earlier today, I blogged about being asked to stop breastfeeding at my son’s Harvest Festival.  The situation was discussed briefly on a closed Facebook for parents and carers of children at the school.  The discussion was very supportive.

It seems. however, that someone alerted the head teacher to this discussion and showed her the comments. The result is that a letter was sent to every family this afternoon.  This is what it says:

 

“Dear Parents and Carers

I would like to clarify certain misunderstandings which seem to have arisen concerning the school’s approach to breastfeeding babies. It appears there is some feeling that we are against it.

KWS has no issue with mothers breastfeeding their children on school premises and we have always encouraged this. We know that “breast is best”. No parent has ever been told that they cannot feed their child in school.

However, we do expect this to be done discreetly and in a sensitive manner and that circumstances may dictate the best place for this.

For example, during whole school events such as Nativities or Harvest Festivals, it would be sensitive to sit one row back so that the children are not distracted. Or, if a member of staff alerts to particular circumstances regarding certain children, then it may be appropriate to move. This would be in mine with one of the school’s Guiding Principles “For Children”. It is in no way saying that breastfeeding is not allowed in our school.

We are just asking that parents are sensitive to different situations at school. I am sure that this would be appreciated by all other parents.

I hope that this helps clear up any misunderstandings.

Yours sincerely

[name]

Headteacher”

 

well, it’s certainly an interesting spin on what happened yesterday. It’s also a clear attempt to garner support for her position by using her ability to send a letter to the whole school to put across a version of events which is quite different to the reality. What was that we were saying about bullying?

 

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Edited to add that you can read the latest update: Harvest Horror – Saturday Update

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39 comments on “Stop Press – The Headteacher Responds

  1. Would like to know what you do and what is said in relation to this…

  2. Hmmm, interesting. I think that if you do try to take it further they will definitely try to use the fact that you expressed views on public social media against you. Tricky…..
    Liz recently posted..Like a pebble on a beach…My Profile

  3. She is still wrong again. She can’t tell you or expected you to move because feeding where you were was not a health and safety concern! What a cow.
    Yolanda Forster recently posted..Making my own MedicineMy Profile

  4. Denise Huggett on said:

    Legally she has no right to ask mothers to cover up, move etc and doing this is actually against the law. I am afraid she is leaving herself wide open to being prosecuted here. I wouldn’t be sending my children to a school where the head was this sort of person. I am disgusted she sent this letter. I would see if you can get together will all the Breastfeeding mums at the school and send a letter on behalf of them x

  5. Thanks for the heads up about the response… I think she’s beginning to realize that she was NOT justified in any way but instead of being mature and simply issuing an apology, she’s trying to “spin” the incident. She’s definitely losing more and more credibility!
    Elisabeth recently posted..Breastfeeding in PublicMy Profile

  6. It drives me crazy that this has all come about because someone was trying to protect children from seeing breastfeeding, when surely they could just pick up the daily Sun newspaper or watch some tv and see a whole lot more in a completely different context. Wouldn’t it be healthier for children to know what breasts are really for!

    I had a similar experience at my Son’s nursery when he moved into a new classroom at age 18mo and the teacher didn’t like breastfeeding. She held her tongue for a few weeks but eventually asked me to leave the room so I could be more comfortable and when I said no as I had already sat down (as the kids were all napping except mine and was about to nap on the floor) and that she had just broken the law she stormed out and sent in another teacher who had bf her over 3yo. A letter was then sent out to the “entire” parent community (probably just me) telling us about this great idea that they had about using an empty room for daytime visits so that the other children don’t get disturbed. Bare in mind that my son had been there since the age of 3mo and I had breastfed him 3x day in their facility 4 days a week. But just this one teacher could make a fuss and get a letter sent out.

    I hope you get good resolution from the Head teacher because it looks like the school is a big part of your life and that of your kids and you do so much for the school. Maybe she’ll retire soon. Hopefully she regrets the whole thing, she obviously didn’t think it through and just assumed you would say “Yes Miss”.

  7. The head teacher is very foolish to have put anything in writing at all.
    She has admitted in writing:
    – that a situation occurred
    – she has publicised the situation and her views
    – that the situation was handled badly hence the need to clarify by a letter
    – she is marginalising you by saying that others agree with her
    – that she thinks the law doesn’t apply to her or the school !!
    She is not only a bully, she has admitted 2 counts of discrimination against you (the harvest festival and now the letter). AND there is no legal cap on compensation payments made for acts of discrimination. If you took her personally to court (rather then the school) she would be ripped to shreds by a good lawyer and the fact that you posted this on the Internet wouldn’t count against you.
    On a personal note I think you are a little star with a big heart and a great example to us all. Best of luck (not that you need it )!

    • Rebecca Price on said:

      What Emily said. She was trying to publicly shame you, put you in your place, pipe down and do what I said, since our little one-on-one chit chat didn’t work.

      Good on ya, Mama. In the U.S., anywhere a mother is legally allowed to be is where she may feed her child. Not only illegal, but distasteful to direct you to the back of the room, with your family, effectively changing how you are parenting ALL of your children.

      And, a side note for having 2 nurslings at the same time: You’re pretty much a rockstar. <3

      Rebecca

  8. OMG this letter just makes it even worse! She’s digging her hole deeper!
    Sian recently posted..Frugi Organic ClothesMy Profile

  9. Becky Willis on said:

    For example, during whole school events such as Nativities or Harvest Festivals, it would be sensitive to sit one row back so that the children are not distracted. Or, if a member of staff alerts to particular circumstances regarding certain children, then it may be appropriate to move.

    Circumstances regarding certain children? What is she saying here? That kids that might look or comment at breastfeeding should be encouraged to think that it is not acceptable to feed by making the mother move? How is that education?

  10. It is your responsibility to educate children to stop prejudiced, Breast feeding is a normal healthy function that should be encouraged and not shyed away from

  11. Emma Jones on said:

    “…particular circumstances regarding certain children…” I used to be a teacher and know that this is code for ‘if there are child protection/abuse issues concerning another child, then we have to be sensitive to it’. So basically, the headteacher is saying that watching breastfeeding is in some way related to child abuse.

    To be honest, none of this surprises me at all. It’s appalling, but headteachers are fearful of everything, particularly anything that they (albeit wrongly) relate to child protection issues, as well as anything that might cause other parents to complain. I bet she didn’t realise that you would kick up such a fuss. Good for you. Most wouldn’t, which is sad. Good luck xx

    • I think she was referring to the fact that she told me they had been working hard with a few boys on their behaviour and seeing me breastfeeding might send them over the edge and they wouldn’t be able to stop themselves being silly. She said she didn’t have time to explain to them what was going on, which is why she didn’t want them to see.

      These boys behaved very well and if they did notice me feeding when they came in the hall, they certainly didn’t bother looking again (clearly the back of my son’s head wasn’t that interesting to them). Nor was there any of the giggling, pointing and silliness that she was sure there would be.

  12. Katherine on said:

    I agree entirely with Emily. This is appalling and ultimately illegal behaviour. The Head makes things worse with this response by basically suggesting that there should be some special rules applied at school events. The law does not say anything about this! Therefore she is discriminating against you…..and now in public too. What other internet users have commented has nothing to do with the clear and fair description of events that you gave.

    I would write to the LEA and ask that the incident be investigated with full reference to the relevant laws (health and safety and discrimination and human rights law I think?? – quick Google will confirm). I would ask for a full apology via them from the Head, that she be “educated” as to her duties as a figurehead guiding the impressionable minds of youngsters, and that the school writes a clear policy on its practices to support breastfeeding.

    It angers me that public institutions, schools, hospitals, libraries – places that should know better, are still so ridiculously behind the times on this one.

    Good luck with your quest! I have something similar going on myself.

    X

  13. Interesting response from the head teacher, where she publicly states her position on adapting the law to suit herself. Perhaps there are other laws she feels may be flouted in circumstances where she feels the person afforded protection by that law is being a bit “me, me, me”

  14. Rachel sharvell-smith on said:

    Dear mrs maddison,
    Whilst I respect your dedication to protecting the children within your school and their festivities, in this particular instance you seem somewhat misguided.
    Part of our role as education providers is to prepare children for life in their community, therefore if it is law outside, it is law inside.
    It is not for us to decide to adapt laws in order to maintain order… you would not ask a homosexual couple to be discreet and stop holding hands, nor a ldd young person or adult to be discreetly different…
    Exposure normalises these things which is exactly why we work in collaboration with parents and outside agencies, in order to provide a holistic and inclusive education for young people and children.
    Please reconsider your stance on this particular issue.
    Rachel sharvell-smith

  15. Thank you for highlighting this issue.
    I am shocked and disappointed by your experience. I do wonder what motivated the headteacher both in her initial action and response letter.
    I wish you best of luck in taking the situation to a satisfactory conclusion.
    Just one thing – can I suggest you take the headteacher’s name off the bottom of the letter? A quick google of it plus the word headteacher quickly brings up documents with the school name and address.
    Whilst I am sure that the majority of people would not use this information for anything untoward in my opinion the headteacher does not deserve to be opened to any media or other abuse.
    Thanks again, H

  16. I think the head teacher is now in breach of professional standards by abusing her position of authority with addressing this letter. See part 2 http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/t/information%20sheet%201%20final.pdf

    I think it is time to complain to the LEA and the board of governors using the information above from maternity action and extending it with the info from my link. Her behaviour is harassment in my opinion and as such you have a case for discrimination against her.

    Please keep up the good fight.

  17. This is a really common tactic used in these situations. There really is no crime in blogging about it. She really is in the wrong and has now put it in writing.

  18. Elizabeth on said:

    So basically you are fine to breastfeed so long as you don’t mind being treated like a lesser class citizen and do so in the designated area at the back.

  19. Tell the Daily Mail – they love a good “I was told to stop breastfeeding” story!

  20. You’re getting somewhere!

    The letter from the headteacher, together with the notice on the front page of the website, has been removed from the School’s website overnight.

    Perhaps someone has finally taken her aside and explained that she is completely wrong.

  21. I have to say if my sons school ever sent this letter home I would send one in to complain even though it was not in reference to me the fact is the head teacher is now warning all bf mums if they don’t do it her way they will be asked to this is disgusting I myself would be more bothered by my son seeing the head ask someone to stop or move as it took a lot to show him it is natural etc this teacher just goes against that.

  22. Natural vegan eco mom on said:

    As a mother I would be outraged if a head teacher or anyone asked me to stop feeding my baby or toddler. I have breasted both my children , my youngest is now 2.5 years and I feed him everywhere .

    I have been asked to leave one place in the last 2.5 years – which was in Aquatica water park , trust me, we were feeding discreetly with a towel around him over his head , and we got asked to leave when I alerted A life guard to two lost girls . Trust me though, there were far more ladies with their breasts on show that what I was doing . I was furious !!!

    I can only imagine how you must feel by having a letter then sent out about it . X

  23. Pingback:Harvest Horror » Barefoot Mahala

  24. Just to give my support. I am flabbergasted at the attitude and am curious what is meant by “particular circumstances regarding certain children”.

  25. threenorns on said:

    as a parent, had i gotten one of these letters, i would’ve been in the school the next available moment taking the headmistress to task for deciding what my children should and should not be exposed when it comes to the human condition.

    as a parent of one of those boys, i’d be raking her over the coals for publicly defaming my child and singling him out as being a problem and potentially a heterosexual male with impulse control issues around sex.

    • threenorns on said:

      sorry, forgot to mention: the school’s job is to educate – the ABCs, the 123s, and “this is an acceptable for a child to behave in school”. the school’s job is NOT to teach “this is acceptable behaviour in society the way we see it”.

      that’s MY job and woe betide anyone (anyone!) who tries to usurp me – i’ll go Henry VIII all over their butt.

  26. Would a bottle feeder be asked to sit one row back to avoid distracting the children? Or someone fidgeting with their handbag? If so, I can see no problem with her stance. I doubt a bottle feeder would be asked to sit one row back, however. Nor a fidgeter.

  27. Children seeing breastfeeding normalizes it, I became a breastfeeder as an adult because of the feelings of closeness and love this gave me when i watched my aunt breastfeed her baby, when i was 12 years old. My mother did not breastfeed. Watching my aunt was the strongest most powerful message, it always stayed with me and I knew I wanted to breastfeed my own children from that moment. So Mrs Headteacher, I also have to disagree with you. breasts are for breast feeding, better for children to see this than see them as the sexual icon they have become!
    Lisa Barden recently posted..Harvest Horror – Saturday updateMy Profile

  28. Vanessa on said:

    Well done for taking a stand. This is bullying -when you have been asked to accept marginalisation and poor treatment despite the law being on your side, and -more importantly -that of your baby.

    I think you should continue to make an issue of this until you receive an apology. I would start by replying to her letter asking for clarification about what happened, and asking if a bottle feeder would have been treated in the same way.

  29. Lorraine on said:

    Children should be ENCOURAGED to see mothers breastfeeding their children, not shielded from it. That might do something about the ignorance and poor rates of breastfeeding in this country.

    However, the Head summed it up in one sentence: “breast is best”. No, breast is THE NORM, anything else (ie artificial milk) is inferior in its ability to nourish a baby. There’s a reason that little sentence was invented by the formula industry.

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  31. I breastfed both my children, now 38 & 34, and I don’t think anyone would ever have dared tell me not to or where to, in those days, simply because they either saw nothing other than the back of my son’s head or would never have approached a woman with a breast outside her bra! I’m very happy that all my 4 grandchildren have been breastfed, and it seems very simple to me -if your baby is hungry you feed it. There is absolutely no reason not to, and indeed, surely a hungry screaming baby would be far more disruptive and a much worse example on childcare to the children in the area.

    Please don’t let this unfortunate individual upset you, enjoy your babies whist they are young because they will soon be grown up and flown the nest, and let’s all continue to educate this particular educator.

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