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Bad school experience for son and contemplating home ed . . .

(46 Posts)
moochima Tue 11-Nov-14 12:47:54

I'm writing this feeling really upset following a meeting at my 12 year old son's school with his head of house and the headmaster. Long-story-short son is being accused of a homophobic comment. We feel this is really strong given the context and the intention (have talked to a fair amount of gay people and educationists about this and are all in agreement) and are resisting the internal exclusion the school is insisting on. The headteacher is insistent that, because the teacher took offence (he is refusing to speak to us or our son) then that means the comment was homophobic. End of.

I'm really in a quandry here because I fundamentally disagree with many aspects of the school outside of this issue and my son (academically above average, very sociable) is not enjoying his experience in the classroom - but has good friends there. He's been educated in 'alternative' schools through the primary years so the sledgehammer:nut approach is not one he's used to.

I suppose I'm writing because I'm wondering if anyone has any wisdom in a)how we move forward and b)what are my options regarding home education? Do I now have to just accept the head-teacher's 'ruling' regarding my son and allow him to do the punishment if I want him to stay in the school? If we should we take him out is there any way of keeping his school place so we can explore some alternatives for a period of time? - Is there any legal obligation for this? (my feeling is the headteacher doesn't give a monkeys regarding our opinions and concerns and would rather wash his hands of us). Has anyone else done this? How do I go about finding out about options?

Any information will be gratefully received - I'm really flying blind here and don't want to make any rash decisions but in a bit of an upset space . . .

Thank you so much xxxxx

PourquoiTuGachesTaVie Tue 11-Nov-14 12:59:47

What did he say? Is the teacher refusing to teach him or just refusing to discuss the matter with you?

Floralnomad Tue 11-Nov-14 13:08:05

If you choose to HE , you are welcome to reapply for a school place whenever you choose to ,but the current school is not obliged to keep you a place . If the HT has decided the punishment then I don't see how you can get around that ,you could approach the governers but they may well back the HT . I don't think talking to other gay people is relevant - if the teacher in question is offended that is all that is relevant I would think .

NorwaySpruce Tue 11-Nov-14 13:08:43

Well you have so many options, but I probably wouldn't consider HE purely because of this one situation.

If you are in a state school, you are unlikely to be able to hold a place for any length of time. If you are talking about a private school, I suppose the place is there for as long as they want you.

What on earth did your son say? Despite your brushing it off, it seems to have had quite an effect on the teacher. And internal exclusion is hardly a super harsh consequence for homophobic comments.

HE is straight forward enough, if that's the route you want to go down. Just de-register your son, and make arrangements to suit yourselves - online schools, tutors, going it alone, whatever fits best. Even if it's just a stop-gap, until you find a different school.

Do look ahead to exam time though, registering at exam centres etc. can be time consuming and costly.

Floggingmolly Tue 11-Nov-14 13:12:42

Being punished for making homophobic remarks to a teacher is not using a sledgehammer to crack a nut... If you have other issues with the school, fair enough; but you'd be doing your son a great disservice if you take this tone with him.

titchy Tue 11-Nov-14 13:22:38

LOL at sledgehammer/nut comment - removing your child from school entirely, just because you disagree with a fairly minor, in the grand scheme of things, punishment is a massive sledgehammer!

moochima Tue 11-Nov-14 14:21:05

Thanks so much for your comments. I get the sledgehammer;nut thing turned round and I'm really sorry if it caused offense or implied that I condone homophobia or offensive comments in any way and should my son have intended upset with his remark then I would be backing the school in their decision. I am really, really not brushing off the teacher. He was and is obviously upset. I meant the sledgehammer/nut comment as a catch-all term to describe the punitive measures taken by the school for infractions of all sorts. Hence this situation being a biggie after lots of little ones. We've been thinking of alternatives for the last year plus. This situation and feeling so powerless in being heard has just bought things up and I'm trying for clarity. So this feedback is very helpful and I thank you for that. x

Floralnomad Tue 11-Nov-14 14:34:30

It doesn't matter whether your son intended to cause upset with his remark ,that is irrelevant ,he has caused upset to the teacher .

moochima Wed 12-Nov-14 18:52:27

Does context not come into it at all? Nor intention?

Hakluyt Wed 12-Nov-14 18:55:57

What did he say?

NorwaySpruce Wed 12-Nov-14 19:06:11

I'm struggling to think of a context in which homophobic comments would be acceptable.

Was your son quoting from a set text, or newspaper? Although that hardly fits with the teacher being upset.

LittleBairn Wed 12-Nov-14 19:14:23

I find it hard to believe it was a harmless comment if it was so bad the teacher won't even meet with you, teachers are used to hearing all sorts. I take it the comment was directed at this teacher? If so that is far for. Harmless as you are rather naive about your DS.

You could take him out and HE him but how is that going to help with his inappropriate behaviour he needs to learn the consequences for such things. Best now that at school rather than at work loosing his job and possibly needing to speak to the police I regards to hate speach.

HE is a great thing to do but not if its being done simply so you son doesn't have to take responsbilty for his behaviour.

LittleBairn Wed 12-Nov-14 19:15:21

That should have read: If so that is far from harmless.

Roseformeplease Wed 12-Nov-14 19:17:50

If HE is right for you, then fine, go ahead. But it sounds like you don't want to accept that your son has done something wrong.

Even if you do decide to HE, you should make him accept and serve his punishment first. Whatever his intention, he caused huge offence.

moochima Thu 13-Nov-14 20:02:45

I'm going to paste what my husband's written about this:

Tomorrow, for the first time in the 12 years I have been a father, despite all my best efforts, I have absolutely no control over what is going to happen to my son T. Despite stating clearly to his secondary school that I disagree with their intended action, he will spend the day excluded from his lessons, taught in isolation in something called “Internal Exclusion". This is a very strange and upsetting feeling, which I feel the need to unpack in writing…..
On Friday 7th November at 3pm my wife received a call from T’s Head of House, saying he had been sent out of class for making "homophobic comments" which had seriously offended his teacher. I immediately went into the School to meet with the Head of House, where I learnt that at the end of an English class on Advertising, the teacher had said “I’ll give £200 to anyone who can tell me my current favourite advert”. Amongst the resulting fracas, where comments like “Condoms”, “Dildos”, “Tampax” were shouted out, my son piped up with “Gay Pride”. The room went silent as the teacher stated “I find that offensive” and sent him from the room.
In my meeting that afternoon, I was told T had apologised to the teacher immediately after the incident, but that the teacher was “Not ready to hear the apology yet”, had asked for the Head of House to take over, and did not want to meet with T to discuss it further, although it was acknowledged the Head of House this would need to occur at some point. I was informed that whilst expulsion from school was an option here, T would only be “Internally Excluded” from school as a punishment for his “error of judgement", which meant he would spend a day working separately from his class in a designated detention block.
Over the weekend, my wife and I fretted over what had happened, and discussed it with T, friends, and various educational specialists I know (I am the Education Manager of an FE/HE college), one who is also gay, has a civil partner, and a son just beginning secondary school. We rapidly realised how wrong the label given to the incident actually was. A “Homophobic Comment” is a very serious accusation that implies malicious intent, and having spoken to my son it was clear he had no idea he would offend the teacher. For T and his peer group, homosexuality is completely accepted as a norm to be discussed along with all other issues of sexuality. We felt this complete lack of prejudice was something to be cherished and dealt with very, very carefully. On further discussion with T, we discovered it was common knowledge that his english teacher is gay, as he’d appeared in an article in a local newspaper where he was photographed with his ‘partner'. The important thing here is that none of T’s peers even bat an eyelid at this – it is completely accepted as the norm. Therefore to mention “Gay Pride”, admittedly to get a laugh, can be seen as an acknowledgement of this normality. My two closest friends have Civil Partners, and they stay with us regularly (often for Gay Pride) – and have been an everyday part of T’s life since he was born. For T then, to mention “Gay Pride” would certainly not be something with any of the connotations of “homophobic".
Yesterday morning I received an email from the school saying "T was logged on the school's information management system for abusive comments relating to sexual orientation", and wrote to the school to express my concerns, pointing out that T was mortified by what had happened (I had never seen him so shaken and upset as he was on Friday after school, he literally dissolved in my arms when I picked him up), and ask that further discussion take place between all parties involved. I stated clearly that any talk of exclusion, either internal or external, was far too strong a reaction. Indeed the next step educationally should be the exact opposite - an inclusive discussion of the issues raised by what happened in the class room on Friday. This should happen before any decision was taken about further action let alone punishment.
I also pointed out our concerned at the scenario surrounding the incident. After the teacher posed his question, what followed was an excited group of 12 year olds shouting out comments all at the same time, where they had been encouraged to make a judgement about a teacher’s personal tastes and preferences. We felt this was an error of judgement on the teachers behalf, as in such a scenario, it’s not hard to predict that the suggestions shouted from a class of children about to become teenagers, might be close to the edge of acceptability, and that T without any malicious intent, had stepped over this edge.
This morning we met with both the Head Teacher, and the Head of House (we were told the teacher concerned was still too upset to meet with us, although I had requested this. This is so sad, and I genuinely feel for him, but professionally this is a worry). The main points we made were:
• To call T’s comments Homophobic was a misjudgement
• The Schools response, along with that of the teacher, was now part of the problem, not part of any solution to the bigger issues.
• The main “error of judgement” T had made was not realising the extent to which his teacher was uncomfortable with his sexuality.
• The school needed to consider the effect this over reaction might have on other children’s issues around their sexuality.
Above all, we were very clear that we did not accept the schools decision to exclude T from his classes.
In this meeting, the head teacher informed us that following advice from the schools Police Liaison officer, that “Legally” a comment was labeled as homophobic if the person hearing it took offence. I do find this concept questionable and have contacted the PC concerned to find out if this is indeed the case. The upshot of this piece of advice is that the school has to act upon the reaction of the teacher to a situation which could easily have been completely different if he had not invited personal comments, or reacted to them with the wisdom and emotional intelligence which is a pre-requisite of a a teacher-student relationship.
The meeting ended very unsatisfactorily, with the Head stating repeatedly “We’ll have to agree to disagree on this”. We were then emailed to say the external exclusion would take place tomorrow, to followed by a “restorative meeting” between T and the Teacher, to which we responded that whilst happy to hear the teacher had agreed to a meeting, we “do not consent to T’s Internal Exclusion taking place tomorrow. We are seeking clarity and advise on how best to progress with this so ask to reconvene once we’ve had a chance to do so.” Once again we requested to meet with the teacher concerned. The schools response was simply: "the internal exclusion will still stand tomorrow as this is the appropriate sanction for this incident”
So here I am, typing out my frustration that despite what seems to me (and those I have spoken with) a very clear over reaction by the school, and we once again seem powerless to get our opinions heard in the face of bureaucratic procedure. It seems to me the school is putting the needs of the teacher above the emotional, educational and even physical needs of my son - they completely avoided engaging with us when we referred to T’s recent serious illness, where stress was one of the causes cited by his consultant. The next stage is official complaint to the Governors but I fully expect they will stand by their Head Teacher.
At least T seems resigned and prepared for his Internal Exclusion tomorrow, indeed he is intrigued by what it actually involves (as it occurs in the building of Myth within his peer group) - but his Dad can’t understand how he has absolutely no say in any of this. This can’t be right surely?

Floggingmolly Thu 13-Nov-14 20:08:42

Dear God, you pair hmm Let it go. I can see where some of the stress in his life comes from...

PourquoiTuGachesTaVie Thu 13-Nov-14 20:11:56

Are there even adverts about gay pride? I've never seen one. I can see why the teacher took offence. Your son made a joke about being gay to get a laugh from his classmates. That's not acceptable. I'd make him take the punishment, learn from it and move on.

Floralnomad Thu 13-Nov-14 20:18:22

Sorry but I think you and your husband have completely overreacted , the teacher took offence ,your son is getting what is TBH a routine punishment in most secondary schools .

saintsandpoets Thu 13-Nov-14 20:22:06

Agree with Pourquoi. Your son said that to make the teacher the butt of the joke. That isn't on.

Floralnomad Thu 13-Nov-14 20:23:43

Also I don't think it indicates that the teacher is uncomfortable with his sexuality ,he probably just doesn't want it bought into the classroom as it's not relevant .

BigRedBall Thu 13-Nov-14 20:24:41

I can't believe you've spoken to "educational specialists" about this confused. Talk about ott.

Children sometimes get told off in school. It's called learning from mistakes. Let your child learn from his mistake.

catkind Thu 13-Nov-14 20:25:37

Okay, then I agree with you. It's not homophobic to be aware that a teacher is gay. Massively indiscreet to shout it out in class, yes, if the teacher isn't open about it; homophobic no. I can understand why you're upset, that's a nasty label to put on a child.

Could you perhaps agree with your son that the exclusion is for being insensitive, and take a complaint forward about the homophobic label?

Hakluyt Thu 13-Nov-14 20:36:34

When you asked him why he shouted Gay Pride what did he say?

Emstheword Thu 13-Nov-14 21:18:22

This is not a homophobic comment if the teacher is known to be gay (and appeared in the press as such). It was cheeky (as were other condom, tampax type comments), but certainly not homophobic. I agree your child should still be punished for being downright cheeky, along with his peers who shouted similar silly things, but should certainly NOT be labelled homophobic!

Coffeeinapapercup Thu 13-Nov-14 21:28:11


I'd be having a talk about how far you take a joke. Yes the homophobic lable may not reflect intention but it was still way out of order. None of what the other children said was personal, what your child said was.

I'd except the internal exclusion and hope it taught my child greater emotional maturity and better boundaries

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