Harvest Horror – Response to My Complaint
Well, no sooner had I posted the update saying I was still waiting for a response to my complaint, than a response arrives in the post. Are you ready? The first section related to an anomaly they found in their complaints procedure which meant that my complaint was addressed under Stage Two, which would normally be heard by the head teacher. Since my complaint was about the head teacher, it was dealt with by the Chair of Governors.
The rest of the letter is as follows (names removed):
In essence your complaint is in respect of the conduct or approach used by [the head teacher] when you were breast feeding [sic] your baby at the Harvest Festival. I understand that this had caused two of the pupils to become distracted and they began to act quite silly.
You claim that [the head teacher] told you to “be more discreet or move” but that she could not say how this could be done.You agreed with [the head teacher] to discuss further after the Harvest Festival in her office. In that meeting you both exchanged views on breast feeding and [the head teacher] explained her position to you in relation to her role in running the school and taking everyone’s interests into account.
In your letter of complaint you also mention a number of postings on Facebook where others have expressed their views on this issue.
A letter was sent home to all parents on this subject and you received a hand written apology from [the head teacher].
In your letter of complaint you expressed your views on the legal rights of mothers to breastfeed and you claim that [the head teacher] has bullied you by her continually referring to other parents who have agreed with her view rather than yours.
The remedies you have asked for are as follows –
1. A full public apology.
2. A breast feeding policy for the school.
3. The inclusion of the importance of breast feeding in the Healthy Eating Module in Year 3.
During this investigation I have spoken to the Head Teacher and to as many parents and staff who were sitting nearby as it has been possible to identify. None of these actually overheard the conversation between yourself and [the head teacher].
I am reliably informed that this is not the first time anyone has breastfed at a whole school event, including services, and it has not presented a problem in the past. I am therefore satisfied that the request to be more discreet would have been merely to prevent the children becoming more disruptive during the Harvest Festival rather than to prevent you from breast feeding. Furthermore, there would have been no intention for you to move to the back of the room which your letter of complaint infers.
With regard to the letter that was sent to all parents and the comments posted on various internet sites it gives me great concern as to how the situation has been interpreted. I am afraid I am unable to see how you have interpreted the following wording taken from [the head teacher]’s letter to parents “during a whole school event such as Nativities or Harvest Festivals, it would be sensitive to sit one row back so that the children are not distracted” as “breastfeeding at occasions such as Harvest Festivals and Nativity Plays was not appropriate” and it seems that the request for all parents to be sensitive has been interpreted as an invitation for “parents to agree with her [the head teacher].
According to the people I have spoken to, the letter from [the head teacher] does not seem to have been interpreted by most parents as “bullying” or as discriminating against breastfeeding. I would like to reassure you that bullying or discriminating against breast feeding will not be tolerated by the Governing Body.
1. As you are aware, [the head teacher] has already apologised to you for the upset and it would be inappropriate for [the head teacher] to make a public apology. This is a private matter and any investigation via the School Complaints Procedure is treated as confidential and will not b made public by the school.
3. [sic] Your suggestion of introducing a breast feeding policy in the school will be referred to the full governors meeting for their consideration. If they decide that a breast feeding policy is necessary, a new policy will be developed and approved at a subsequent full Governors meeting. If you would like t have some input into the development of a policy, the governors would welcome any suggestions you wish to make and take these into account.
3. Staff will be asked to look at including breastfeeding in Healthy Eating lessons. However, this will depend on the curriculum already developed by the staff in the school.
I hope this covers your concerns and that we may move forward in the ways I have suggested above. However, if you are not satisfied with the findings of my investigation, you are entitled to ask for this matter to be heard by a Governing Body Appeal Panel. If you decide that you wish for this matter to be heard by the Governing Body Appeal Panel, please let me know within the next 10 school days and submit any relevant evidence that you with the Governors to consider.
Chair of Governors
So there you have it.
I don’t know where to start with this. He’s spoken to several parents, none of whom were involved, but he hasn’t spoken to me. He has spoken to the head teacher, and the story has changed yet again. Now apparently, the year 6 boys were being silly. They weren’t.
I accused her of bullying by continually referring to parents who agreed with her, not me – except that this is not what I said. I said that she was trying to bully me into accepting her view by continually telling me that other parents would support her.
There’s no attempt to discuss the legal position, (although I hear on the grapevine, the head of Governors is convinced that no law has been broken) and I am told that there was no intention that I should move to the back, even though this was said to me.
I have misinterpreted the letter sent home and taken it to mean that breastfeeding at events is not appropriate. No. I was told by the head teacher that it was inappropriate.
Of course, most parents would not see that this whole situation was bullying, because they were unaware of the majority of it, and only knew about the letter they received. I have not led some campaign to tell all parents about it, and so all that the majority of the 200 families know about is the letter from school. Likewise, I suspect that the majority do not regard it as discriminatory, because they are unaware that breastfeeding is protected in law to stop this kind of thing happening.
So, no apology. The governors will decide if they need a breastfeeding policy and I suspect that they will decide they do not. Likewise, staff will be asked to consider adding breastfeeding to the curriculum. I doubt it will happen. Looks like this was a box ticking exercise to me.
So, I’m asking for your advice, dear readers – where do I go from here? Do I
- drop it
- appeal (what evidence will be needed?)
- pursue the legal aspect (how much will that cost?)
- take up the press on their offer to cover this story
- name and shame
- something else?