Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Harassment of our teachers inexcusable

Editor's Viewpoint

It is extremely disturbing that a Bangor school principal faced a long period of harassment by a parent who ended up with a criminal conviction for his thuggish behaviour.

Julie Thomas, head teacher at Clandeboye Primary School, was subjected to the campaign by the man between April 2016 and June last year.

She was verbally abused repeatedly by him, he took photographs of her outside the school, and even showed up at her house.

Ms Thomas felt so intimidated that she had to take security precautions at her home, and now carries a personal protection device.

Such behaviour by a parent is totally unacceptable.

The man received a four-month prison sentence, that was suspended for three years, and is subject to a restraining order.

It is encouraging that the police and the Public Prosecution Service took the teacher's concerns seriously, and that the guilty party faced the full rigour of the law.

This appalling behaviour comes at a time when teachers' representatives have voiced wider concerns about unruly classrooms.

A growing number of them have been subjected to totally unjustified violent assaults and verbal abuse. Recent figures from the Education Authority revealed that more than 10,000 pupils were suspended from Northern Ireland schools in just over three years, and that a further 73 were expelled.

The true numbers may be higher because the figures from schools with fewer than five suspensions in a one-year period were not included by the Education Authority.

Such behaviour towards teachers in and out of school is not acceptable, and when parents abdicate their responsibility for ensuring that their children show respect for school staff, it is up to the schools' governors and the Education Authority to make it clear that this will not be tolerated.

Such distressful acts are not easy to eradicate, particularly when a misguided parent decides to engage in such anti-social behaviour.

However, this case has shown that, in the long-term, the law can provide a successful means of redress for obvious wrongs.

All harassed teachers, and those who harass them, should take note that the law has considerable power - and that the law enforcers are prepared to act robustly when necessary to deal with such odious conduct.

Belfast Telegraph

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