Intolerance: Children "Too Hot To Handle"

Schoolchildren are being deprived of comfort and affection from their teachers because child-protection laws have made them 'too hot to handle', Scotland's 'Children's Tsar' warned yesterday. Kathleen Marshall Ms.Kathleen Marshall said teachers are increasingly afraid to interact with their pupils, or give them a 'bit of affection', in case they are accused of 'inappropriate' behaviour. She called for a change in the law so teachers or other adults accused of assaulting or abusing pupils could remain anonymous until court proceedings were finished. Ms.Marshall's comments were welcomed by teachers' leaders, who said yesterday that pupil-teacher relationships were in danger of becoming 'sterile'.
Her comments came a week after a teacher was acquitted by a sheriff of assaulting seven pupils, amid claims that the children may have colluded to put her in the dock. Ms.Lorraine Stirling, a primary schoolteacher in Clackmannanshire, had been accused of pinching the skin of her pupils, pulling their hair and hitting them with books and rulers, but she was found 'Not Guilty' after a three-day trial.
Ms.Marshall said the changes she was proposing would make pupils with genuine complaints more likely to come forward. She said:
'I don't think it's fair that people are 'named and shamed' publicly before they are given the chance to defend themselves. 'There isn't always a great public clearing, as there is with the public making of an allegation. 'My concern is that we've made children "too hot to handle" -- even when careful handling and a bit of affection is what they most need. 'People have become so afraid of the potential implications of being the subject of allegations that they are increasingly afraid to interact with children. 'There is a very broad issue of whether it is actually right to name people before they are convicted. That is something the legal system has to address'. Ms.Marshall added: 'I can understand the fears that adults have, and it would be better for everyone, children and adults, if we had a fairer system. 'If adults see the system is being fair and they think an allegation will be handled fairly, it will make them more confident in interacting with children. 'The other effect of the current system is that if someone is cleared, the anger can turn on the children and then children with real concerns may be afraid to raise them'.
Mr.Ronnie Smith, the general secretary of 'The Educational Institute of Scotland', said the pendulum had swung from the days when a teacher was always believed and a pupil not. He said:
'Young children who fall and scrape their knee need to be comforted or given a cuddle, but teachers now would be reluctant to do that. 'You get a kind of false, kind of "sterile" relationship between the teacher and the pupil, and that takes away from the teaching and learning process. 'We operate in a climate of fear, and a whole machine rolls into operation whenever a complaint is made'.
Mr.David Eaglesham, the general secretary of 'The Scottish Secondary Teachers Association' said the commissioner's comments were 'constructive'. However, he warned that protecting the anonymity of accused teachers may even lead to more allegations being made by pupils. He said:
'It's very welcome that Kathleen Marshall has got involved in this debate, and we would agree with her that things are definitely "not the way they should be". 'It has been a difficult issue for some time, because -- even when a teacher is completely exonerated -- you tend to find that some degree of "mud has stuck". 'We do have to be careful, because not-naming teachers could result in even more malicious allegations because pupils might think "they're not going to get named anyway, so what difference does it make"'.
Mr.Andrew Gibb, the lawyer who defended Ms.Lorraine Stirling, also backed the commissioner -- but warned that protecting teachers' anonymity was merely 'a plaster to cover a more serious wound'. He said:
'I'm extremely concerned about the paranoia among teachers nowadays.
'Teachers should be entitled to touch children, but it seems to me that "political correctness" has gone too far and we have to do something to redress the balance'.
Mr.Cary Cooper, well-known author and a professor of 'psychology' at 'The University of Lancaster' management school, said the fact that two-thirds of parents in the UK now work out of the home meant children were not getting the level of attention they need. He added:
'Parents are not spending enough time with their kids, so the kids are thrown on their own resources. 'They also want to draw attention to themselves and one way to do that is by behaving badly in school, or maybe even claiming certain things are happening in the classroom that haven't happened'.
A spokesman for 'The Scottish Executive' said:
'We expect Local Authorities, as employers, to have effective policies in place to provide all their employees, including teachers, with the right support and advice'.
Staff wary of any physical contact with children Mr.Victor Topping has been a biology teacher for 26 years and says the way he acts towards children has changed drastically over that period. Mr.Topping who teaches at Clyde Valley High School in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, said:
'When I first started, if I wanted to show a child how to check their pulse I would take their wrist and show them where it was. 'Nowadays I would think twice about doing that and I'm more likely to take a marker and draw it on their wrist rather than physically touch them'.
He also said traditional school activities such as 'stage plays' and 'outdoor excursions' were under threat.
'When you take children away on a trip you try and make sure they don't get sunburned by giving them sun block. 'But now teachers are wary of physically applying it to their pupils' faces, even if the child ends up getting burned as a result. 'The same goes for stage make-up for school plays'.
'Teachers' hands tied in climate of fear',Kevin Schofield, The Scotsman, 2005-01-21


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So we've got parents too busy working to do their parenting jobs properly, or single-parents trying to do the job of both parents...which puts the work onto the teachers, but the teachers are afraid of the parents and the system. Parents are afraid of hitting their children too because of the new laws. The children are on it all and brewing up trouble all the time. On top of which these undisciplined kids are getting all they want at Christmas and are fat and unfit too.

It's crazy. We need some tough love here. Kids need discipline at home and at school. They need to be deprived of what is bad for them in the long run and given what they need to make them healthy, fit, and educated members of society that can live in peace and work with others to make the world a better place.

The system should be changed back, of course violence is bad, but how serious was the situation that laws had to be introduced over common sense?

In trying to care for children, have we not instead crated a worse situation?

In trying to further the female cause, to get equality with men in the workplace and society, have we not lost the mother and the father and created mere providers of conumer goods to children?

Who, these days would like to be a teacher, a perent or even a child?

1/24/2005 12:55:00 pm  

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