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The Most Ridiculous Complaints Ever Made Against Me

March 4, 2007

A natural hazard of teaching these days is the belief that parents should be able to hold teachers to account. This is, of course, ridiculous. Parents have only one source of information about what happens at school: their kids. As any realist knows children are prone to lying to their parents. This is not necessarily for malicious reasons, very often children find it embarrassing to talk their honestly to their parents about their life. Come to think of it, this is also true of most adults I know too. Therefore virtually any complaint formed on the basis of a child’s comments to parents is a string of lies, but as teachers aren’t actually considered to be trusted professionals the parents are listened to.

Most complaints are normally along the lines of “my child doesn’t get any homework”, which normally translates as “my child doesn’t do any homework” and can be dealt with by sending the homework to whoever is dealing with the complaint. However some are more serious. The complaints below resulted in a Headteacher lecturing me and turning up for “surprise” observations, a Deputy Head interrogating me, a parent confronting me in reception as I arrived at work, another parent turning up and threatening to attack me and several children being moved classes. The management strategy is invariably to appease the parents of badly behaved children. No parent was told: “if you don’t like it, go to another school”.

Complaint No 1: “He picks on me”
Made by: Kelly Winton. Alpha female in year 8 at the Metropolitan School.

What actually happened: I told her to stop interrupting me. I told her to do some work in lessons. She wasn’t the only child to be told this, although she was the only one (that week) to start yelling at me and verbally abusing me when I suggested it. A more general variation of the complaint was that I pick on the girls in that class. This probably had less impact as at the same time I was being accused of picking on the boys in the class. Another parental complaint from the same class also explained that expecting their son to stop interrupting me and do some work showed that I wasn’t prepared for “the realities of the multicultural classroom”.

Complaint No 2: “He won’t help me with my coursework”
Made by: Some very lazy year 11s at Woodrow Wilson School.

What actually happened: They wouldn’t do their coursework. My offer to help them any day after school was ignored. According to the complaint I couldn’t be found in my department after school. The fact that I was the one that used to switch off the lights in the departmental office at the end of the day would suggest I could, in fact, be found for hours after school (and have no life).

Complaint No 3: “He assaulted me.”
Made by: Kieran Kennings, one of the mental boys at Stafford Grove School (mentioned in this entry)

What actually happened: Kieran turned up to my form room while I was taking the register. He opened the door (into the Corridor Of Death) and refused to move. When the bell went my form group became trapped in the room, crowding around the door. I gently led Kieran out of the way by the elbow. Despite the law that states that teachers can use reasonable force to prevent pupils “engaging in behaviour prejudicial to maintaining good order and discipline” even the gentlest effort to prevent pupils from harming others can be subject to complaint. “You can’t touch me” is almost the catchphrase of any child engaging in behaviour that would get them arrested (or beaten up) out in the real world.

Complaint No 4: “He assaulted me”
Made by: Jason Birch, year 7 at the Metropolitan School.

What actually happened: A good question. I’m still at a loss to explain this one. I know Jason had decided he didn’t like me, the point where he called me a knob gave that away. I did tell him I’d be telling his father about this behaviour. Somehow that turned into a full-fledged accusation of assault, although given that we were both seated and at opposite ends of the classroom I’m not sure how this worked. Very strange indeed, but then the boy had been told that his behaviour was down to a “medical condition”, which in my experience usually means that the child will do whatever they like without fear of consequences.

Complaint No 5: “He threw us down the stairs”.
Made by: Year 7 boys at Stafford Green school.

What actually happened: I threw some year 7 boys down the stairs.

Okay I admit it. I lied about the last one.

The year 7s I threw down the stairs didn’t complain.

Discussion of this entry has now appeared on TES.

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15 comments

  1. I’ve been there so often! Working with pupils with sebd makes it almost inevitable that there will be spurious and/or malicious complaints made by pupils.

    I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I was accused of assaulting a pupil, whether or not I’d even touched them (we were trained to restrain and had signed parental consent to do so).

    The major difference was that, on the whole, the parents were so relieved to have their children back in school – albeit special school – that they either ignored their offspring (as was their wont to do in most matters anyway) or were of a mind that we should “assault” their kids when they went off the school rule rails (“just give him a hiding” was a regular exhortation).

    …and then the pupils also lied to us: “I’m gonna tell ma maw you assoltit me.” – always worrying (and generally led to exclusion as it was deemed to be a serious issue to lie about us) but rarely reported at home.

    My one mainstream experience of a ridiculous complaint – a Primary 5 girl whose mother confronted me at my classroom door to complain that I’d told her daughter that it “served her right that she was bullied for being speccy”. As a speccy teacher I was able to convince her mother that it was less than likely!

    Oh, the joys….


  2. Complaint Number Five rings a bell. I have indeed technically assaulted several children over the years – all of them bigger than me. I have kneed a boy in the balls to relieve him of a penknife he was threatening another boy with. I “accidentally” closed the door on a boy’s head because he wouldn’t completely leave the classroom as requested; whacked a boy on the knuckles with a wooden spoon because he would not keep his fingers out of my ingredients whilst I was doing a demonstration; shoved a girl down some steps because she had beaten another girl almost unconscious and I couldn’t break them apart; and stabbed a boy’s hand with a compass because he was doing that thing where the victim has to spread their hand on the table whilst the bully rapidly stabs between (hopefully but never inevitably) the outstretched fingers. I have frequently reduced unruly pupils to tears just to confirm that I am ‘ard and they are all mouth.

    The thing that connects all these incidents is that none of the kids lodged a formal complaint because in every case they had done wrong and knew it. The other thing of course, apart from the tear-inducing bollockings, is that they all took place pre-1995.


    • You are clearly a violent person who reacts rather than responds – you show a terrifying lack of remorse for your outbursts – all of which were committed whilst you were in a position of power and responsibility – I detect more than lack of remorse actually – I detect sanctimonious glee – have you ever investigated personality disorders? You might learn a little about your motivations (although I doubt your capacity to reflect)


      • Hi OA,
        I dont know if you wanted to delete this nonsense- if so delete my response too of course…
        Nic,
        1. Where has he been violent?
        2. What outbursts?
        3. What glee?
        You are clearly a fantasist type person with either a personality disorder or an inability to read properly.


  3. I don’t remember typing all that but it looks so familiar…
    The worst of it is that so amny people will tell you that that’s the reality if kids today so it’s us that have to change.


  4. I’ve had a few threats to report me for assault which never came to anything, mostly because they were trying it on to see how easily scared I was.

    One of my tactics for getting kids to sit down when I was on supply and didn’t know their names was to say, “Will the good looking boy with glasses, black, blond, red hair etc at the back please sit down.” On one occasion this was reported as, “Hey, the black speccy four eyes, sit down?” I pointed out that I was unlikely to use speccy as a term of abuse given that I wear glasses myself.

    The best complaint ever came from a Jehovah’s Witness parent who claimed I was “corrupting” his twin daughters by doing the John Donne poem “License my wandering hands to go” with them. It was set for the A level course they were doing.


  5. I was told I was going to get the sack, by a 11 year old girl who called her father (and he called the school and the principal), couse I had told the class that they had to see a movie together with another class.

    Im not kidding.


  6. I’m new to your blog and have been reading through all these anecdotes with much nodding and a feeling of being understood! I have a couple of anecdotes to share.

    I worked at a prestigious all girls’ school and in my first term there was required to go with my form group on a 3 night camp. This meant that of course I wasn’t teaching my other classes, one of which was Year 12, and they were given teachers from within the school, not necessarily in my subject. One of the parents of the Year 12 class called to complain that I had gone on camp and left the class without a Maths teacher. Amazing!

    I then worked in what was considered a very good Co-Ed private school. One Year 12 student I had asked to go the toilet during an assessment. This particular assessment was based closely on a take home assignment and because I had no way of supervising him while he left the class (and there was 20 mins left to the lesson) I told him he would have to wait until he turned his paper in. He just shrugged, went to his desk, and handed the paper in 10 mins later. The next day the Headteacher came to see me about this “incident”, the father complained directly to him, as he was a family friend. The student scored well on the assessment but the parents were outraged that I didn’t let him go to the toilet and the Headteacher agreed with them. He said he would speak to the parents but never did. Later that same year the parents took their son to Europe on a holiday during the school term (a couple of months away from the exams). Upon returning he wanted me to provide him with all the notes he had missed and I told him that he’d have to find a friend in the class who had a good set of the notes and photocopy them for himself. This time his father called me first and ranted and raved at me over the phone for a good half an hour. I should have hung up after 10, I ended up hanging up in the end. He still had a huge chip on his shoulder about the toilet incident that was never resolved and he never understood why I wouldn’t let his son go to the toilet. I went to see the Headteacher about this incident and had a very stern word with him. I basically said “Your only role when parents call you is to say ‘Thank you for informing me. I will speak to the teacher concerned and get back to you’. The conversation with a parent should take all of a couple of minutes. You should then let them know that you support the teacher and that their child’s side of the story is flawed.” I told him how disappointed I was in how he managed the school and how he had ruined the relationship I had with the class because of this. Ultimately this boy would then go around telling other students that he and his dad were going to bash me up. Nice.

    One more! At this same school I wrote a topic test on Statistics for a Year 12 class (the next year). A girl, not in my class, scored 32% on this test. Her mother called up to say the test had been “statistically unsound”. It turned out she casually lectured on statistics at a university and had been extensively helping her daughter study for the test. She called my Head of Department, he supported me 100%. She then called me because she had not got any satisfaction. Her work colleagues had agreed with her and so I was in the wrong. I told her that the issues that she had seemed to be with what the curriculum said we were to teach, rather than the questions, and that she should take that up with the govt authority. She wasn’t satisfied and wanted to come in and see me. I said I didn’t see what this would achieve as the conversation had achieved nothing. She later called the Headteacher, and he sided with her. Big surprise. He told me that I had been abusive to her on the phone. A colleague in the office at the time I made the call could confirm that I had been nothing of the sort. The Headteacher said that because she was a single mother from South Africa who had had a difficult divorce, we had to be sympathetic towards her (read: let her get her own way). My Head of Department did everything he could to support me. The mother wanted all students to resit another test. In the end the compromise was that I had to remark all the tests and ignore one of the questions she didn’t approve of. This was considerable effort for me to mark all the papers for 3 classes. And of course, the original test had been worked and approved by two other teachers, one considerably more senior than I, before we gave the classes the assessment.

    Sounds like Western Australia is becoming more like the UK all the time.


  7. Is it legal to name the children who have made complaints against you? Is it ethical to call a child mental? Or to say that all children are liars? You do seem to have had rather a lot of complaints lodged against you – has it ever occurred to you that teaching children may not be your forte?


    • I think it probably is, provided its a truthful report.
      If the student never made such a complaint you might have a point of course.
      And why shouldn’t a fraudulent, malicious complaint be exposed and the perpetrator held to account?
      Some children are highly aggressive and unruly and fit the modern slang of ‘mental’.
      Many children do lie and the vast majority of parental complaints arising from student reports contain either partial or complete misinformation.
      Complaints of the type OA has mentioned are routine in schools all over the country.
      I have been a senior teacher in several schools and 99% of teachers have regular or sporadic complaints, some minor, some major and 99% are completely without merit.
      Happily CCTV, other student witnesses, other staff or documentation usually proves the complainant to be in the wrong or lying.


  8. I am not sure how much child psychology or indeed psychological vetting goes into the teacher training and qualification. i suspect not enough. I notice a fair amount of behaviour from teachers of young children which indicates training is inadequate and vetting crude to say the least. Saying kids are lazy and alpha, tells me more about teacher’s state of mind – so you need to be the alpha, you need to have every one march to tune, you need not to be bothered by their idiosyncracies or different attitudes? How about encouragement, enthusiasm, motivation, nurturing? I have had to intervene on 2 occasions at nursery and at reception, resulting in teacher training being prescribed by the head in one case and abuse being undetected in another (of the sexual kind between children going unnoticed in the playground for weeks).

    So I’d be careful about being so sanctimonious. It’s not a battle ground unless you intend to have a war. As to the comment about liars – the cunning displayed by adults is rarely shown by children – unless they are trying to cope with an untruthful or manipulative adult. I just hope my son doesn’t encounter such a shameless self-publicist and narcisist as the author of this blog.


    • Were you intending to totally prove OA’s point about how idiotic some parents can be, or is it just a happy coincidence? My FAVOURITE part ‘children aren’t manipulative by nature’ *laughs long and hard*


  9. These aren’t the kids’ real names are they?



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