Gosport dad "outraged' at school apology over girl's suspension amid unisex toilet row
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Brune Park Community School in Military Road, Gosport, has partly upheld the parent’s complaint following a meeting and apologised for the incident, while insisting teachers will be fully trained on the subject.
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But the Gosport dad has dismissed the response as a “blanket apology” and says the school is “hiding” the teacher’s “abuse of power” in its handling of the incident.
As reported, the girl was suspended for one day on October 12 after refusing to use a unisex toilet because it made her feel “unsafe and dirty”.
Outlining his grievance, the pupil’s dad previously said: “A male teacher at my daughter’s school refused her access to a female toilet, giving her an ultimatum to use a unisex toilet or not to go at all. To add to the problem my daughter was subsequently suspended because she contacted me to tell me what was going on and refused to hand over her phone.
“My daughter now has a suspension on her school record for stating she wanted to use a female toilet because the unisex ones make her feel unsafe and dirty, without so much as a question asked of this teacher.”
A letter from the school to the pupil’s parents, seen by The News, said: “The decision to suspend (the child) has not been taken lightly. (She) has been suspended for this fixed period because on October 11 (she) was persistently defiant.”
A spokesperson for the school later added: “We don’t comment on individual cases. There are gender specific toilets in the school which children have access to at all times.”
As reported, the child’s guardian said they had complained to the school about the teacher’s handling of the incident. A meeting was set-up between the school and parents to discuss the suspension. The father said his daughter also missed school on October 13 because he did not receive the school’s suspension letter until the following day, which Brune Park has also now apologised for.
Following the meeting, headteacher Kerry Payne said in a letter to the child’s parents, seen by The News, that the pupil was given the opportunity to use a nearby unisex toilet with a group of other students during a break.
The headteacher continued: “All other students wishing to use a toilet did so here. (The female pupil) did not make clear to the member of staff that she felt uncomfortable, so they were not given the opportunity to make other arrangements for (her). It is regrettable that this member of staff did not anticipate or pick up on (her) discomfort, and offer to arrange another toilet visit on the return to the room. For this we apologise.”
Citing agreed actions to be taken moving forward, Ms Payne said: “(The pupil) can choose the toilets she wishes to use in school. (She) should always feel safe to use toilets in school, and we encourage her to speak up if this is ever not the case.”
The headteacher concluded: “As a consequence of our review I do in part uphold your complaint and apologise for the upset caused to (the pupil) and yourself at this time. We have, as a consequence of your complaint, further reviewed access to toilets across the school; provided additional training to all staff about listening to student preference and ensuring that gender specific toilets are available if required.
“We trust this resolves your concerns. Should this not be the case we would suggest mediation with (the pupil), the member of staff and yourself. Should you feel this is necessary please let me know if you would like me to arrange this for you and (the pupil).”
But responding to the school’s letter the dad was less than impressed, saying: “I’m outraged they have issued a blanket apology to cover themselves knowing full well what has truly happened. They have tried to hide a teacher's blatant abuse of power over children, because that’s what it amounts to as he refused the request just because he thought he could.
“I’ve given them several opportunities to resolve the matter by way of acknowledging what was done to my daughter by this teacher, and it would have been amicably resolved but instead they choose to hide him, hide the wrongdoing and blanket over everything with a vague, ‘we’re sorry’. They are only sorry because I’m pursuing it.
“I just wanted an apology for my daughter from the school on behalf of that teacher to show her that adults are not without consequences - as we so often teach our children. Yet this has yet not been forthcoming.”