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"Mother smells of alcohol" on Friend's DS's school file.

(87 Posts)
PegBasket Wed 28-Mar-12 19:51:32

(I've namechanged for this as I would not want anyone to recognise me or my friend).

I need a little advice on behalf of a friend. Our children are in Reception together in a smallish village school.

My friends DS broke his pelvis in an accident in the playground about 2 months ago. The DS has healed well and is now back at school in the morning only and my friend has to stay with him which is all fine. She works in a local pub and has been able to fit that round her shifts. She has been joining in in class activities, helping out where needs be, but is primarily there to help her DS go to the loo etc. So she is un-paid by the school obviously, not CRB checked and is there purely voluntarily so that her DS doesn't miss too much school afterbeing in hospital for weeks etc.

This morning, as my friend was leaving the school with her DS after the morning there, the Reception teacher pulled her to one side and said she had smelled alcohol on her. My friend protested saying thats can't be true as she is practically tee-total, (which I know 100% to be true). She said it was a child protection issue and as such would have to be reported to the Head. The Head then said to my friend, who was protesting all the while, that this would have to go on her DSs "school file", whatever that is. The Head also said this is not the first time it has been noted that she smelled on alcohol. (She drinks Red Bull a lot and smokes, which might smell a bit alcohol-y?)

My friend is distraught, no amount of telling them she was not a drinker, (for such reasons as she works in a pub till closing time several nights a week (her DH is at home then) and has to drive home from there, but also is on medication for somethng else which prohibits her drinking, but even after all that she is just Not A Drinker). In all ways she is a great mum, who puts her DS absolutely first, and he is sweet, polite, bright, and has impeccable manners.

She told me about this in tears earlier today. I think its completely unnacceptable to have something on her DSs file about his mothers suitability as a parent, suspecting her of being an alcoholic or something when its absolutely not true, especially when she isn't even in the school on any kind of professional capacity other than to look after her son.

I am sure I have dropped off my DS several times, reeking of wine from a night with various other mums from school the night before, all of us laughing about being hungover or whatever. But then I am a drinker and my friend IS NOT! I have never been stopped and told, "excuse me you smell of alcohol and it needs putting on your sons file".

Is there anything she can do to get this removed from her DSs file? Is there anything "sinister" about it being on the file, either for now or the future? What should she do?

Thanks for any advice you may be able to give that I can pass on.

MigratingCoconuts Wed 28-Mar-12 19:59:52

I feel for your friend but...

This is a child protection issue. If the teachers in the school suspect that she is drunk then they are absolutely duty bound to report it on. They actually cannot afford to give your friend the benefit of the doubt.

For all the times that they might be over reacting will be the times that there may be a genuine risk to the child

Dustinthewind Wed 28-Mar-12 20:13:47

It's one of the flags that we are bound to look out for and note, you have no idea if the same is written somewhere about you. All that will happen is that the situation, her son's well-being and her attitude will be monitored to make sure that there are no safeguarding issues involved. Best thing she can do is continue going in.
She could always say that if they are unhappy and think she's dishonest, then they surely wouldn't want her in the classroom, and they must pay for a 1:1 support for her son instead.

madwomanintheattic Wed 28-Mar-12 20:14:29

Well, if she works on a pub every night, drinks red bull and smokes, then it isn't entirely beyond the wit of man to work out why she might smell a little of a particular lifestyle choice, lol.

Personally I would have laughed and said 'I work in a pub!' and then 'thanks for letting me know, it must be lingering on my clothes'.

Teacher is duty bound to make a mental note if she suspects alcoholism, (and probably a slightly more formal one, too) but no one has questioned her parenting capability? Is there a chance that her medication makes her slur/ her condition make her appear slightly wobbly etc? (I only ask because our local scout leader looks every inch the alcoholic, but she has ms. And my 8yo looks like she is permanently tanked because of her cp). The first time I met the scout leader she was standing with a group of parents, and there was an unmistakeable whiff of stale booze. That and her demeanour meant that I honestly thought she had a real problem. I've met her a few times since - the alcohol smell was obv one of the parents!

She needs to make sure that they have no other complaints that could be misconstrued, other than she smells like her job.

I would be pissed, but not sure what else you can do, really. She could speak to the chair of governors informally and ask whether it is worth putting her dismay in writing to the head? Easy enough explanation?

I assume this is the reason she smells of booze. I have a friend who had real issues and drank vodka and red bull 24/7. You wouldn't necessarily be able to tell unless she told you, or you knew her quite well.

MuslinSuit Wed 28-Mar-12 20:16:15

She should be CRB checked so the school are on dodgy ground tbh.

admission Wed 28-Mar-12 20:17:24

I agree that it is not a subject that the school can avoid and that there needs to be a referral but that does not mean that there is any stain attached to your friend, it is the process of ensuring that everything is OK.
But the manner in which this has been handled is not very clever at all. What the teacher should have done was report their concerns to the relevant person who would be the headteacher, not the person involved. It is then for the head to make appropriate checks and refer the situation to the relevant person in the Local Authority, which will be within social services.
It does not matter that the mother was in school on a voluntary basis, the same situation would apply if the school thought the situation existed in a parent picking up their child.
I would be tempted to get the parent to write a letter to the head teacher, saying that whilst they understand the need for vigilance on child protection issues that the school have handled this extremely badly and that you wish to make a formal written complaint. That they are absolutely available for anybody from social services to come and discuss the reasons why it would not be unreasonable for her to smell of alcohol. I would also be making the point that they will now no longer coming into school on a voluntary basis to help their son and that it will therefore be necessary for the school to make suitable arrangements for somebody to help your son.

PegBasket Wed 28-Mar-12 20:50:49

Firstly thank you all for taking the tie to reply. I (and she) are obviously quite niiave about what happens inside schools and what gets reported and what doesn't. I think she is going to write a letter but I will advise her to just let it lie.

She doesn't slur or seem drunk at all, the meds are to do with osteoporosis that's all.

Many thanks again for your help. It's left me rather worried as to what's on my DCs files now!!!

Dustinthewind Wed 28-Mar-12 21:01:06

You don't need to worry, a flag is just an alert so that patterns can be spotted and random bits put together to see if there's a picture. It is to protect vulnerable children, and those who may be at risk but not obviously so.
How often do schools get accused of missing warning signs when the shit hits the fan?
Now we are supposed to take on board riot prevention through building a strong moral character in all pupils...

Primafacie Wed 28-Mar-12 21:19:09

Your friend should look up her rights under the Data Protection Act. The school may be acting as a Data Controller.

sakura Fri 06-Apr-12 11:24:00

I agree with Primafacie. She should look up her rights. She's obviously a lovely mother, and I'm not really sure what the end point and motivation of writing "mother smells of alcohol" on a child's school file could possibly be.
Sounds like they're more interested in catching mothers out than doing the right thing and offering help, should they need it. To see something like that on your child's file must be quite worrying, as I'm sure it was supposed to be... but not sure exactly how it helps anyone really.

MoreBeta Fri 06-Apr-12 11:28:47

She works in a pub. She is bound to smell of alcohol. That is the reason and she needs that noting on the file. Beer leaves a yeasty smell on clothes.

People who work in fish n chip shops smell of fish and chips.

I used to work in a pig sty in a former life. Guess what I smelled of?

catsareevil Fri 06-Apr-12 11:31:34

Smeeling of alcohol because someone has been drinking is different to the smell from someone working in a pub the previous night.
Sometimes the antibacterial hand gels can make people smell like thay have been drinking, does she use them?

everlong Fri 06-Apr-12 17:36:15

Has she told school she works in a pub?

sienna1 Sat 07-Apr-12 23:39:50

With your friends permission, I would write to the school and give them a reference for your friend telling them what you have told us. Then that would stay on record too and give the school more accurate information on the whole issue.

malheureuse Sat 07-Apr-12 23:50:39

I don't think it fair to put this on record without having taken a blood test for alcohol levels

kipperandtiger Sun 08-Apr-12 00:18:06

I would have thought the obvious reason is that she works in a pub so of course her clothes and hair will smell of alcohol. It comes with the job. I don't know if the staff who have observed this are aware of how to tell the difference - in a very different environment like school (which smells of crayons, pencils, play dough, etc) the alcohol smell might just be so out of place that they haven't spotted the difference. If the school staff don't like it they can pay for a full time person to help care for her son. But she ought to have a CRB check paid for by the school/local authority - it's not fair for the other children and their parents otherwise. I am not sure what writing it in the son's school file is supposed to achieve though. If they don't like the children smelling it, it might be kinder to speak to her about it. There are fellow parents in our school who work in farms and catering and they have the smell of their work on their clothes too. It's not a big deal.

Hebiegebies Sun 08-Apr-12 00:42:56

Having had an alcoholic parent and my schools ignored all the signs for what ever reason, I aplaud the school on following up on their concerns.

Once your friend has proved there is no problem that should also be written in her child's notes and they should apologise.

Cann she get the breath tests that will prove she has not had any alcohol?

It's good she has you to talk to

TheDetective Sun 08-Apr-12 00:49:06

It shouldn't be down to the parent to prove Hebie. Innocent until proven guilty remember?

He broke his pelvis in a playground accident?

Oooyah bandit. How did he do that?

As per your friend - I'd be asking to see the record, have a letter from her GP, be adding my own statement and then having a copy of them.

Hebiegebies Sun 08-Apr-12 01:00:06

Where does that leave the children who are at real risk of abuse? If we had to prove 100% that there was a problem before a child's care was investigated there would be far more children at real risk.

She should not have to prove her innocence but I was suggesting a way of hastening the process of justice

1950sHousewife Sun 08-Apr-12 01:12:37

Sorry that your friend is going through this, but I am with HebieGebies on this somewhat. Having had an alcoholic parent I am happy that the flag has recognised this smell and are following up on this. I hope that your friend, and you, can find a way of explaining this to the school and I'm sure all will be reasurred. But sometimes, the school is the only contact between the child, the parent and the outside world and I, for one, am happy that they are concerned.

Equally, I hope this does not remain on her file for long after they are satisfied that it's baseless.

I've had this problem recently with a friend of DD whose father (the parents are separated, I am vaguely friends now with the mother) turns up smelling of alcohol to pick her up. It's happened about 3 times now. I worry about telling the mum, but its perhaps I need to. Sorry, hijack there, but it's tricky to know what to do in this situation.

differentnameforthis Sun 08-Apr-12 02:42:12

'I work in a pub!' and then 'thanks for letting me know, it must be lingering on my clothes

When I worked in a pub, my clothes never smelt of alcohol (unless you include the times that I spilt it on me), fags yes, booze, no.

Also, surely she changes first? She wouldn't be sitting in school in clothes she worked in the previous night?

Redbull & fags also don't make you smell of alcohol.

I've been troubled by this overnight -

seriously, what kind of playground accident causes a child to break their pelvis? That's a big injury on a small, flexible person...seems odd.

Dunno, I (almost) had a MIL who had a drink problem, not a raging alkie, but she was en route. She was a.may.zing at covering her tracks. But, if you are sure that she is not a closet drinker....

...then, what's her medical condition? A sign of uncontrolled diabetes is keytones on your breath - which smell like pear drops.

Possible that the teacher is a fan of hooch and mistook what she smelled?

Snorbs Sun 08-Apr-12 10:55:16

As I understand it, schools have clearly defined child protection procedures and a teacher noticing that a parent smells of alcohol at pick-up has to be recorded.

ggirltwin2pinot Sun 08-Apr-12 11:08:15

could it be mouthwash or rescue remedy causing the smell?

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