Exit Stage Left Part Six
If you have not read part five, please click here:
And if you need to start from the beginning, please click here:
We had no intention of letting our son know that there had been a counter-allegation against him. But the member of staff mentioned it to him in the meeting, and he found out. This put us all in a difficult situation. The allegation was so illogical and so clearly fabricated that there was, in my view, no point in worrying him about it. But someone from the school had revealed it to him, and the cat was out of the bag. The damage was done.
By the end of the week his cold had cleared and it was clear that he would be able to return to school. Or, at least, his health was no longer keeping him from attending. But none of us wanted him there until the ballet teacher’s counter-allegation had been either explained or retracted. Our son could not remember the occasion in which he had treated the ballet teacher as a confidante; nor could he ever remember confessing to him that he had lied to us, and as I wrote in the last blog - he wanted us to go the parent teacher consultation anyway, so any lie to deter us would be completely illogical. Besides, we couldn't locate the ‘lie’ or its content; and for that matter, neither could the school.
It's worth noting at this stage that over the course of our discussions with the school - a period of over three months - I ask for this allegation to be explained or retracted about fifteen times. My request is made in writing, in meetings and in phone conversations. The school have never to this day offered an explanation, retraction, or apology.
Then he told us something chilling about the teacher - something that had not come out over Christmas - in front of all the children he had his back and shoulders painfully held and manipulated, while the teacher recited the names of the back muscles. This recitation was something that the teacher also proudly did during the meeting with his mum. It seems an odd type of party trick - is this something that all ballet teachers do?
The situation is having a terrible impact on all of us. I feel terrible. In fact I am beside myself; only just keeping it together. I email the safe-guarding officer at the school and explain that I no longer feel that the school offers a safe environment for my son. After a wait, she eventually replies with several suggestions:
Late on Sunday night, I am still desperate about what to do. So, in a terrible state, I phone social services and ask for advice. I appreciate the absurdity of this. The phone-line that usually receives calls about serious and horrific incidents is now getting a call about whether a ballet class might be a safe environment or not. Here is a recap - this is what I explained to the social worker.
I'm in the bathroom when the phone rings. It's the woman from social services again. She has been thinking about our case. She is suddenly sympathetic and has two pieces of advice to offer:
Neither of theses points would have occurred to me. Her advice is to prove invaluable; it is as if she can see into the future.
On Monday morning, I simply do not know what to do. With a heavy heart, I drive to the school with our son, and ask to speak to the safe-guarding officer. She is not in the building, and won't be coming until much later that day. I ask to speak to others from the safe-guarding team. A message is sent to them, but they refuse to speak with me. In fact one of them goes in and out of the building several times while we are waiting - all eye contact is purposefully avoided.
Eventually, they manage to get the safe-guarding officer on the phone. We are escorted to a room where we can speak in private. In short, our conversation reveals that nothing has been done in order to assist getting our son back to school. This is beyond my belief. The other adult that they had assured would be in the room during ballet was the pianist - who had not been told that they would be taking on the additional responsibility of watching out for potential abuse; the named pastoral staff members had also not been alerted to the situation, but she repeated the reassurance that no staff member would ever mention what had happened - in public or in private. Bearing in mind how indiscreet the ballet teacher has already been, I think that this is a case of the horse bolting several weeks after the stable door being shut.
Back in the reception area, our looks at me and says, ‘Just don't leave me here, Daddy’. I arrange for another phone call to be made to the safe-guarding officer, and ask our son to explain his reasons for coming home himself. He is logical, and articulate and displays a wisdom exceeding his thirteen years. He calmly says to her that all the measures she is suggesting potentially punish him. He has done nothing wrong, but he is being made to carry all responsibility. He is innocent, and it is the teacher who is in the wrong - he is sensible, spontaneous and clear-thinking in an incredibly difficult situation. I have never been more proud of him or impressed with his maturity.
Their failure to guarantee a safe environment for a child is astonishing.
We get in the car. I phone his mum, and I tell her that I am bringing him home.
Next time: setting him free