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unproven suspicion about smell of alcohol on teenage DS should have gone no further?

(27 Posts)
MrsLunch Wed 08-May-13 16:03:21

My sister-in-law picked up my 14 year old DS from school after a cricket match on Saturday and thought she smelled alcohol on him. She took over 24 hours to alert me to her suspicions but in the meantime told a friend of hers who also happens to be the school's Assistant Child Welfare Officer. The latter then went straight to DS's Housemistress with this piece of information resulting in the DS being talked to by the school before I had had a chance to have a heart to heart with him about dangers of drink etc. Furious with sister-in-law for taking this outside the family, particularly to someone who had the power to take it further. I am not cross that she eventually told me in the first place.

Have just had challenging conversation with the Assistant Head Master who obviously defends the teacher involved and says that anything she learns about a pupil has to be instantly reported in case the child is at risk. I would've hoped for at least a warning call from her (as she lives in my village and knows me) rather than what I perceive as a heavy handed approach. Oh, and when asked, sister-in-law denies ever mentioning this to anyone else. However, ACWO told Housemistress that sister-in-law had mentioned it to her. So someone is lying.

Am I wrong to feel that the ACWO should exercise a degree of commonsense, given her friendship and proximity to our family, or was she just doing her duty?

And breathe.

youmeatsix Wed 08-May-13 16:08:05

i would be more concerned at a 14 year old smelling of drink/having had a drink than anything else TBH. However, expecting special treatment from the ACWO isnt really on

Schooldidi Wed 08-May-13 16:08:29

I think the teacher acted appropriately.

If you want to be angry at anybody, be angry at your sil for speaking to the school before she spoke to you.

LaurieFairyCake Wed 08-May-13 16:09:04

Get your DH to tackle HIS sister, she's obviously lying as the Welfare officer wouldn't know otherwise.

The school haven't done anything wrong as they've acted in the best interests of your child. That 'warning call' you talk about is very often not appropriate when it comes to safeguarding matters. The policy is always to talk to the kid (your child is competent) in case there are other issues. It's not about you or your parenting or your rights - its solely to safeguard the child.

I think your beef is with your kid and that's what you should focus on. And your SIL who has done something wrong since she actually knows her family hmm

mrsjay Wed 08-May-13 16:13:26

just because a teacher or anybody looking after children knows you doesnt mean you need a heads up your son smelled of alcohol it was reported to the school as he was in school I am not really sure what you are worried about did you expect the school not to do anything, are you not furious and worried your 14 yr old smelled of alcohol why are you angry at these people you know , confused

mrsjay Wed 08-May-13 16:16:03

maybe your SIL told the school because she was worried her nephew was drinking in school ,

Gossipmonster Wed 08-May-13 16:17:56

Your SIL took 24 hrs to tell you?

Whose care was he in?

If it was yours I would've been furious as he would have needed to be watched if he was pissed.

I would be pissed off about her taking her concerns elsewhere without discussing it with me first too.

MrsTerryPratchett Wed 08-May-13 17:01:08

Expecting and giving special consideration to people because you know them has put more children in danger than it has helped. She lives in your village. Oh, that means you must be different to people who don't hmm. She did the right thing. Your SIL should have told you earlier.

Floggingmolly Wed 08-May-13 18:29:14

Of course the Welfare Officer acted appropriately. Your arguement is with your SIL for not telling you until 24 hours after the event; not the teacher for dealing with the situation.
Had he been drinking?

Euphemia Wed 08-May-13 18:33:26

Staff have no leeway to exercise judgement/common sense - they have to report any cause for concern.

The real question is: had he been drinking?

thecatfromjapan Wed 08-May-13 18:38:29

I absolutely concur with Laurie's analysis.

scaevola Wed 08-May-13 18:45:32

I can see you'd feel pissed off about SIL effectively dobbing him in.

But actually I think this will work out for the best. if he was drinking during a school fixture, getting a warning shot from the school (when circumstances unclear, and heavy punishment unlikely) should show him directly how seriously they take it and how very likely it is that it will be found out. This might steer him away from a much worse.

Thou of course if he was drinking at a fixture, that's a pretty serious thing already.

Cadsuane Wed 08-May-13 18:50:50

If the welfare officer gave you a "heads up" or did not passed it on asap it could have cost her her job even if the child in question was not at immediate risk. I would not expect any friend to risk their career for me.

Fraggle3112 Wed 08-May-13 19:31:38

If a 14 year old had drank an excessive amount of alcohol he would've noticeably drunk, if he wasn't and SiL did smell alcohol on him chances are it was one sneaky drink with his mates after a game. Yes OP needs to talk to him about it and 14 is too young for this but it's hardly unusual- teenagers experiment with alcohol.
IMO SIL should have spoken to you first so you could deal with it how you see fit. I agree it's heavy handed to have him told off by the house head but once your SIL had told the teacher she would have no choice but to escalate it.
Personally I would be furious with SIL for going over my head especially as it sounds like she was gossiping to a friend rather than acting out of concern for your DS.

Iggi101 Wed 08-May-13 19:47:59

I would have said one drink at a game was "an excessive amount", actually. It's odd the OP wanted the chance to have a heart-to-heart about dangers of drink and feels robbed of this - how about talking to your dcs about alcohol before they become teenagers, would seem sensible to me.

yaimee Wed 08-May-13 19:53:07

Don't think the teacher was in the wrong but think your sip was.
You can't expect the teacher not to follow protocol or to warn you, it is her job to follow the procedure that she did and the child should always be her primary concern.
Your sil should certainly not have mentioned this to her friend, provided it was a one off and she has no other reason to be concerned about the welfare of your ds.
Has she raised other issues with you, or is this the first one?

MummytoKatie Wed 08-May-13 19:59:04

Had he been drinking? I'm never convinced by the whole "smells of alcohol" thing - most mouthwashes contain loads of alcohol and you can sometime smell it on people after they use it. Has he been showering lots recently? If so, it is just as likely he's been indulging in illicit snogging as illicit drinking! So perhaps a sex and alcohol chat needed.

However, it isn't appropriate for your SIL to be gossiping to her friend about it - especially before telling you.

whatamardarse Wed 08-May-13 20:15:55

I agree with fraggle

The head shouldn't have shouted at OP son as there was no proof, discuss it yes, reprimand no.

The SIL should have gone straight to the mother and for it to be dealt with immediately instead of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, instead of gossiping. If SIL genuinely cared for nephew she wouldn't have gone around his mother, what the hell did she expect to happen? If I was OP husband I would be furious too.

phantomnamechanger Wed 08-May-13 20:17:49

in one of my teaching posts, one of the children, whose family were known to me outside of school, confided in me when I was giving her a lift home that her friend was self harming. I went straight back to school and alerted all the relevant people - can you imagine the uproar had I not and the child had seriously hurt herself that weekend

the only one who has done wrong here is your SIL for not telling you AS WELL AS the welfare officer

Corygal Wed 08-May-13 20:23:27

Probably just a swig from a team can - let it all blow over. But SIL should have told you if she was planning to tell anyone.

Your poor DS - no sneaky teen experimentation for him.

miggy Wed 08-May-13 20:26:47

Of course the teacher had to tell the school, suspect any school with 14yr old boys will have heard it all before but be able to deliver a reprimand that he will take some notice of.
Your SIL is however hugely in the wrong, she should have told you immediately and it should have been your decision to speak to the school (and you should have because it happened at a match, but your choice)

seesensepeople Wed 08-May-13 20:52:02

We still don't know if the DS had actually had a drink.

Assuming he had, my concern as a parent would be what risk is there whilst he is under the care of the school - he was at a school cricket match when he smelled suspiciously of alcohol, not at home or out with friends.

I would be asking some searching questions oif the school - how did he obtain the alleged alcohol? How did he consume it (allegedly) without any staff seeing it? If he was observed, was any action taken by staff on the day or did they turn a blind eye?

MrsLunch Thu 09-May-13 07:28:09

Thank you all for your comments - has put it all in perspective & I can see that expecting special treatment is unreasonable - my point about the Welfare Officer living in the village is that she knows us personally, rather than professionally & might have given us benefit of the doubt, not that we are somehow more perfect than those that live outside the area! But my sil started the whole string of events and she is the one I should be aiming at.

I have spoken to my children about dangers of drink, as well as cigarettes and drugs, on many occasions but teenagers want to experiment for themselves and I would be very surprised if I get through DS's school years without some drink related incident, if not drugs or fags. I did not notice any smell on him when he was delivered home but then again I did not get that close. He was very happy he had scored 38 runs in his first match so attention was on that.

He was on school grounds at the time so seesensepeople you have a valid point.

Unfortunately, sil is my brother's wife and DH has headed for the hills as men do when shit hits fan, apart from which he thinks ACWO acted correctly so no support from him! Not sure whether to escalate this further with sil as I have spoken to her twice on the matter and she still denies it - I think she felt safe under some confidentiality agreement whereby Welfare Officers do not name their sources but in this case she was outed to the Housemistress.

Probably best to move on but have asked sil NEVER to discuss my children with anyone before myself, especially not her friend the ACWO, and I will collect DS myself from now on!

Again, ladies, thank you for your input. It has all helped me enormously.

Hissy Thu 09-May-13 07:41:10

The ACWO is not the enemy here. Your DS is her only concern. Please see that.

If anyone has a concern about a child, they have a right and perhaps even an obligation to raise it.

Your SIL should have spoken to you first, but if the school kicks off at your DS, the fuss may just put him right off doing it again for a LONG time, and be more effective than you having a chat with him.

How HAVE you dealt with this with your son? HAS he said he has had a drink?

Keep calm, tell SIL that if she has concerns, to speak to your first. Then leave it.

She is her brothers sister, so what do you expect in the form of loyalty to you. At least you know where you stand with her.

Floggingmolly Thu 09-May-13 07:57:41

Giving people "the benefit of the doubt" is not within her job remit.
Investigating concerns is. Surely you can see that?

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