Friday, May 02, 2008

This is how bad some British schools are

A father threw himself under a train because he wrongly thought that he had failed to enrol his daughter into her chosen secondary school, an inquest was told yesterday. Steve Don, 43, believed that he was an "unfit parent" because he had been unsuccessful in getting his 11-year-old daughter into a secondary school near their Brighton home.

The surveyor, who had no history of depression, had complained to his family that repeated attempts to contact the local education authority had been met with silence. He handed his daughter over to social services hours before jumping into the path of a train at a level crossing in East Sussex.

On the day of his suicide Mr Don told his wife: "They would not listen to me alive, perhaps they will if I was dead." But it emerged that Brighton & Hove City Council had backed down and awarded his daughter, Bethany, a place at a school a few minutes' walk from her home only hours before Mr Don died. His wife, Lorraine Wilson, 44, told him the news over the telephone but he refused to believe it. Two hours later he was dead.

In a statement read to the court, Mrs Wilson, an office manager, said: "He did take his life and this was due to the local education authority not agreeing to meet him." The family had wanted their daughter to go to the Dorothy Stringer School but in 2005 she was placed at Falmer School, five miles away. The couple appealed but this was rejected by an independent panel. They applied again for Varndean School, which is within walking distance of their ground-floor flat. Hours before Mr Don killed himself in September 2005, the council called his wife to say that it had found their daughter a place at the Varndean School.

Concluding that Mr Don committed suicide, Alan Craze, the East Sussex Coroner, said "I have made a decision not to hold an inquiry into matters relating to the decision as to which secondary school this particular child should go to." A council spokesman said: "The reason Mr Don's original preferences were turned down was because he'd sent his form in after our published deadline. Our rules clearly say we have to consider all applications that come in by deadline before late ones."


Queer perspective

This story from Saturday could have been a Bottom Story of the Day, but it's so amusing it's worth giving a longer treatment: "School officials said Friday was uneventful for Tampa Bay area students observing a 'Day of Silence' protest organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network," reports the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.

Participants "moved quietly between classes, undisturbed by teachers or classmates." A spokesman for the Hillsborough School District (Tampa) said, "I haven't had any parent calls, teacher calls or non-parent calls. It's just been really quiet.'' A spokesman for the Pinellas (St. Petersburg) district "was unaware of any incidents related to the Day of Silence." If that's not nothing enough, the paper reports that "at Palm Harbor University High School, dozens of students wore purple ribbons--and were largely ignored":
Brittany Moore, the 17-year-old president of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, said she wished there had been more of a response. Still, Moore said, it was better than the past two years, when students verbally assaulted those who participated in the event.

Hmm, she "wished there had been more of a response," but in previous years, when people talked to her, she complained of being "verbally assaulted." Maybe this idea needs a bit of a rethink.


Homosexuals lose one in Australia

THE DECISION to ban students from escorting gay partners to the Anglican Church Grammar School formal next month has been fully endorsed by the school council. Up to eight students had wanted to take boyfriends and raised the issue with a senior staff member, who passed the request to Churchie headmaster Jonathan Hensman. At the time Mr Hensman said it was not appropriate for students to take a same-sex partner because escorting a young woman to a formal was part of the boys' education. But after reports in The Courier-Mail Mr Hensman referred the matter to the school council.

A brief statement posted on the Churchie website yesterday said the council "strongly supported the headmaster's position on the school's education programs in social settings". Council members also "thanked the headmaster for his leadership and his ongoing commitment to the highest standards of education for Churchie boys". The nine-member council is chaired by company director Barry Kelly and includes Mr Hensman. Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall is the council president but a spokesman said he took no part in the discussions.


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