Harvest Horror – Saturday update

I have been overwhelmed with the support I have received from all over the world. Thank you so much for reminding me how strong we can be together.

Through comments on my blog post and Facebook, I have learned that the letter sent home to parents was also posted on the school website, with a notice on the home page directing people to it. Both have since been removed.

Yesterday, those parents who had posted on our closed Facebook group in support of me were approached at school by the head teacher and given her version of events. The admin of the group was invited to a meeting in the head’s office where she was given the head’s reasoning again and told it would have been better had I sat at the back of the hall, in a corner. I was at home looking after my baby, who has been poorly since Thursday night (though much better this morning), and my husband collected our eldest son from school. The head teacher did not approach him at all, although she knows who he is.

This morning, a handwritten letter from the head teacher was hand delivered to my home. I’m not sure that it’s “right” to post the content here, so I will summarise: she apologises unreservedly for any offence caused, which was unintentional. She only wanted to help particular children to behave and is sorry if I was upset in the process.

My thoughts are that this letter is completely at odds with the letter that went out to parents yesterday.  She has not apologised for asking me to stop, suggesting I should move, be more discreet, suggesting it is a protection issue, breaking the law, sending a letter to parents, placing it on the website or any of the things I think she should apologise for. She has apologised if I am offended by her stance.

I will still be going ahead with my letter to the Governors and Local Authority (and as many have now suggested, Ofsted).

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38 comments on “Harvest Horror – Saturday update

  1. Pingback:Stop Press – The Headteacher Responds » Barefoot Mahala

  2. I heard about this this morning on Facebook and read your original post. I’m horrified that this happened to you and I am grateful that you are pursuing this to full closure width the school board. I also wanted to thank you for writing. I had something similar happen to me and I never did anything about it aside from talking to my breastfeeding friends about it. I was afraid and embarrassed. Shocking considering I am a loud and proud lactivist. So it’s never too late. You’ve given me a little more courage to try to write about this. Thank you.

  3. Katie Alexander on said:

    Good morning,

    Get on this. She is not sorry that she offended you, she is sorry that she got called out. She’s sorry that she may well be in trouble, and she’s sorry that you have more support than she thought you would. This is all evidenced by her story changing, feeling the need to go to your supporters and tell her side, and not speaking to your husband. Breast feeding won’t be normalized until people see it happening more often, get comfortable with the idea…especially if it is not a normal occurrence in your area. It takes individuals like yourself to stand up for your baby’s rights to eat…unbelievable, isn’t it? But that’s not the only, or even biggest, part of it now. This woman was attempting to bully you, I absolutely believe that. With the law and social supporters on YOUR side, she can’t bully you…and I’m assuming this is a common practice for her, since she felt the need to change her story and justify her stance with your supporters. Tell everyone you can, call the local news stations and proper authorities that your child was being discriminated against-and you, in the process-and set a precedent for people like her in the future that their opinion doesn’t count when you have the law on your side. People like her are the ones responsible for such low breast feeding rates, because women that are not as strong as yourself are intimidated by the feeling that they can’t leave home ever until baby is finished nursing, for fear of what others may say or do. Unacceptable. Good luck, momma, and thank you for being a warrior against the injustices against your baby, as well as babies everywhere.

    • I absolutely agree with the above. She is trying to wriggle out of it having (finally!!!) realised how much trouble she will be in now. Good luck with your ongoing complaint.

  4. A politician’s apology. They always apologise “if you were offended” – thereby apologising for something you control – rather than for what they did. As a proud Dad of two (now grown up) breastfed babies, I applaud you. Don’t let the bully win.

  5. Suzi Satterfield on said:

    Her apology was a non-apology. She was wrong, period. I’m not sure what your laws are, but here in Canada, she broke the law, period. Our local mall tried that non sense here. We were at the same place in droves feeding our babies in that place they objected. (It was the mall play area.)

    That head teacher should be fired.

    • here in the UK the 2010 Equality Act makes it an offence to treat someone differently because they are breastfeeding – there is protection under the Pregnancy and Maternity section and the Sexism section of the Act.

      • To add to Mahala in the UK you can breastfeed anywhere you have the right to be, you cannot be asked to move or cover up because of someones sensibilities. There are a few exceptions but they relate to obvious dangerous places to breastfeed ie in an area is radiation or toxic chemicals, and (from memory it is a while since I have read it) relating to areas for certain types of male mental health or male offenders where again there may be safety issues.

  6. threenorns on said:

    that wasn’t an apology – that was another slap: “i’m sorry you took it that way” is categorically not the same as “i’m sorry i upset you”.

    don’t let this drop because she still thinks she did nothing wrong. some lessons have to be hammered home.

  7. Sally Burley on said:

    You have my complete and utter support in this. I am appalled at this woman’s behaviour. Please keep us informed about what happens next. xxx

  8. Well, all I can say is it wasn’t all that long ago when it was inappropriate for women to show their ankles… Thanks to pioneering woman like our author here, maybe it won’t be too long before we make further strides in making the public see breastfeeding for the beautiful (and healthy) miracle of nature that it is! (Posting from US)

  9. I, being an adult now, affirm that breast feeding is completely natural. When i was about five, six years old, I saw a woman breast feeding for the first time, me, being a child was wondering if it was natural, and i wanted to stare? I saw this again at an older age, after asking questions, was told it was natural and much better for a baby to breast feed than the other alternative, I see no problems or anything ugly about breast feeding. I think that this woman should have talked to the boy about what was going on instead of trying to raise a stink! The more you talk to a child, the more they know right? The breast feeding was done at a school, and there were a lot of educators there right? Well, they should have talked to the child or children about it. That way they understood. I thought it was their job to educate our children? It also helps if their parents talk to them about this.

  10. That’s no apology! She’s just sorry she couldn’t bully you and didn’t have the support she had assumed she’d have. In my state in the US, they have small printable copies of the law. I carry them in my handbag, ready to hand out if someone ever suggests I move or cover when feeding my son. Over the past 6 years of feeding my boys, no one has ever done so, but I’m ready. Good on you for standing your ground and attempting to educate this woman. I hope you continue to pursue this so that other moms will know what they can do if they face similar discrimination. Please do write the letters you plan on writing. Take this as far as you need to to stand up to this bully.

  11. You Go, Brave Mom!!!

    Don’t let the bullies win. If people, including children, can’t handle seeing a baby eat, without perverting into something else, then those people should stay home.

    Love and support from New Orleans!

  12. Wendy Curnow on said:

    You GO GIRL !!! You have so much support and you have SO done the right thing , you are very brave , well done !

  13. It’s so disheartening that in this day and age women are discriminated against simply for feeding their child. If this woman did breastfeed it was not for very long. I would also encourage a nurse in and invite breastfeeding mothers to protest by feeding your children at the school. I want to thank you fir sticking up for yourself and all of the breastfeeding babies that will follow. If everyone would take a stand like you did many more women would feel more confident to feed their babies the natural way anywhere anytime. Thank you- Amy Little, Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for WIC in Rochester, NY.

  14. Chelsea on said:

    How can we help? I would still love to join you in voicing our outrage over what happened to you, if you are able to provide contact info for the school (maybe even an email address?). I think other readers would be happy to do the same. Imagine the school receiving a huge outcry with letters of complaint from all around the world!

  15. Thank you for standing up to this woman. You will prevent her bullying another breastfeeding mother. I am sorry that you have experienced this stupidity and nastiness. I am a school governor and would be horrified at this Headteacher’s behaviour of reprimanding a parent and misuse of the school’s communication methods. Contact your LEA, OFSTED, Health Board and any Infant Feeding coordinators your authority may have.

  16. I have breast fed 4 children during various assemblies, meetings, fates, sports days etc. I have never been asked to stop and would never do so because of someone else’s comfort.

    There have been occasions where the children at the back have noticed, whispered to each other, had a quick double check but then continued with assembly. It isn’t something that you see everyday but that is something we should all try harder to change and not shy away from.

    I hope that the governing body take notice and make efforts to stop something similar from ever happening again.

  17. Also dont rely on the board of governors, even though I am one, most are a load of self appointed local busy bodies who like the status. I doubt they would have a scoobie with what to do with your complaint, so ensure the LEA are copied in.

  18. Sophie S on said:

    Totally in support of you. Take it to the top, outrageous position of Head that is both bullying in nature and antiquated in perspective. I bet this is really upsetting and stressful as well and you don’t deserve that.

  19. Sarah Halpin on said:

    I am so glad you tackled the school on this and are not letting it slide. Her behaviour is offensive. Please let us know how you get on.

  20. Mark Baker on said:

    Stay strong. This woman is projecting her own squeamishness onto her pupils, and perpetuating the perception that breastfeeding is somehow ‘icky’ and ‘shameful’. How bloody Victorian. Am a bloke, but a still am strongly in support of mums who breastfeed if they are able to do so. Given that you were discreet enough to wear the right type of top to feed bubs without abandoning modesty, this harridan needs to pull her head in. Name and shame her I say, she needs to be dragged into the late 20th century (at least!).

    • I have just read your 3 posts about this and am horrified and appalled by the headteacher’s bullying. I wanted to let you know that you are completely in the right and have done absolutely nothing wrong…something that cannot be said for the head! As you have already been advised, go to the governors and ofsted. These bullying tactics cannot be allowed to continue.

  21. Julianne on said:

    This is a non-apology! The only thing she’s sorry about is that she’s been landed in hot-water. I’m really glad you stuck to your guns, and please do fire off those letters. I have a friend who has breast fed her twins since birth, and actually still lets them nurse occasionally (they’re now 4). The abuse she’s received for this has been shocking. One of the weirdest things I’ve heard over and over again – often from women – that breastfeeding is disgusting and unnatural. I am totally perplexed by this, what could be more natural?! I’m assuming that the Head of the school here is harbouring such feelings but knows she can’t let it show, so she hides behind passive aggressive bullying behaviour like this.

  22. I applaud you for continuing your fight to defend your right to feed. She is a bully as evidenced by all she has done and I support you as much as I can from a distance. If my babies were still little, I’d join you in a mass feed in at the next school event as some other commenter suggests!

  23. You have absolutely done the right thing here and I agree with all the other posts about the insincere letter of apology – she is only sorry about the trouble this has now caused her. I breastfed anywhere and everywhere and can’t imagine what I would have done if anyone had ever asked me to move. This woman is disgraceful on so many counts. I really hope the governors support you x

  24. Pingback:Harvest Horror » Barefoot Mahala

  25. Charlie on said:

    You should print her letter and hand it round / post to all that received her original explantion. Good on you for pursueing.

  26. Hi, Just caught up on all 3 posts, so disappointing when a headteacher in charge of a children behaves like a bully instead of a carer 🙁

    As a governor could I please suggest you decided what action you want before you write? A letter to the governors will create probably a brief discussion and a trite apology. Most Governing Bodies do not want to go against the Head. However, an official complaint, following the schools complaints procedure, will have far more ‘clout’. I had to Chair an official complaint against the school, and it was done within a set legal framework – and actually did partly find against the school.

    So I suppose it depends what you feel you want/need from the process.

    It sounds like you know what to do next, but if you need any governance advice, please shout 🙂

    Suzanne @ Suzannes Tribe

  27. A person like this head teacher should not be responsible for any children. I’m sorry but she needs to be disciplined over this, maybe even prosecuted.

  28. Helen Rye on said:

    Absolutely disgraceful – not least that a head teacher should take the lead from the ignorance of 6 year old boys, rather than fulfil her duty to educate them. I applaud you for having the strength not to be put down by this woman’s persistent campaign – I would hate for my child to be at a school led by someone who displayed such overbearing behaviour.

  29. “I’m sorry *you* were offended”

    How about “I’m sorry for offending you”, “I’m sorry for my offensive behaviour”, “I’m sorry for being a bully”, or just “Sorry”.

    This is just saying “Sorry that you have chosen to make a silly fuss despite my reasonable behaviour”.

    Well *I* am sorry you’ve had to put up with so much unpleasantness.

    I hope your complaint goes well.

  30. Rebecca on said:

    What a ridiculous woman. She has obviously been taking tips from her youngest pupils in how to handle a a situation, i.e. lots of note-passing and Chinese whispers! If she were truly sorry she would have sent a copy of your letter to all parents. I would suggest that you write to the education authority with a summary of what has happened, along with links to your blog posts about it, and let them deal with her. Congratulations for handling the whole thing with dignity and calmness, and for not allowing other people’s small minds to persuade you that nursing your children is a shameful activity.

  31. I have breast fed everywhere, including in front of (gasp!) male children. They are often very intrigued, and I’ve known a group of 5 year olds gather round to ask what I am doing. I have NEVER known their mothers be at all bothered by their interest.

    I find it incredibly unprofessional of the head teacher to present such an old fashioned view, not to mention to send a letter to every parent in the school to express her point of view. Asking a nursing mother to move is illegal, unless there is a clear health and safety issue. I could see the “protection” point of view, if you’d been offering the year 6 children a taste! I think its important for children to see breastfeeding as something that does happen. Attitudes like this, treating it as something to be done in private like picking your nose is surely not going to change the low breast feeding rates in the UK.

    Well done you for not just putting up and shutting up. This woman needs to apologise for her actions, not just for the way you feel about her actions.

  32. Deborah on said:

    We had this type of thing happening all the time when I breastfed my children 30 years ago, I am so sad that this is STILL happening. Good for you that you are strong enough to fight back. I hope you enjoy feeding your children for as long as you want to I know I did.

  33. Wow, just wow! How can anyone so rude and ignorant be in charge of children!? I am so so sorry that you were subjected to such bullying. I’m not sure I’d want my child being in a school run by such a vile woman! We are all behind you on this, and I am in awe of you being so eloquent and level headed when confronted like that! Give ’em hell mama, I cannot wait to see what the govenors have to see. It’s quite clear that her personal letter to you is a very poor attempt to get you to ‘drop it’! Xxxxx

  34. I’ve been following this since you posted it and a friend on Facebook showed me I wanted to say thank you for standing up for breast feeding mums!!

    I am a first time mum to be and am planning to breast feed I didn’t even realise this went on! I can’t believe this attitude even exists!

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