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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 04:05 GMT 05:05 UK
Violent parent 'hit me in the face'
Ian Tunnicliffe
Ian Tunnicliffe: Hit in the face by a parent
As posters warning parents they will be prosecuted if they assault teachers or support staff are to be sent to all schools in England, head teacher Ian Tunnicliffe explains how violent some parents can be.

The trouble began for Ian Tunnicliffe when his school secretary was forced to hang up after receiving two or three verbally abusive telephone calls from an angry mother.

The woman was infuriated by her son's suspension from Harlton School in South Shields, South Tyneside.

I was shaken - it gave me sleepless nights

Ian Tunnicliffe
But she was also angered at having the phone put down on her and so threatened to come round and "do" the secretary for her actions.

The first Mr Tunnicliffe heard of it was when he heard a scream from the school office.

He ran in to see the woman trying to hit the secretary through the double glazing - breaking both panes of glass.

Mr Tunnicliffe told his secretary to call the police while he went out to make a note of the woman's car registration.

Physical abuse

The woman then came over to him and started beating his chest. He said he would press charges, at which point she hit him twice in the face.

"I was shaken - it gave me sleepless nights when I wondered what I could've done to prevent it, what I'd done wrong and how I could protect my staff.

"The school secretary was extremely upset and shaken - even frightened.

"She actually lives not too far away from the lady in question, and when she had to give evidence in court, she was extremely concerned for her safety."

No retaliation

Of course, there is no way a head teacher can hit back.

"I can't touch them, I can't respond otherwise I would lose my job," said Mr Tunnicliffe.

The parent concerned was charged and convicted of common assault and causing a nuisance on school premises.

"She had to pay 60 for the broken window and 30 damages to me and was ordered to attend anger management classes - which really rubbed salt into the wound," said Mr Tunnicliffe.

Worse still, he believes she never turned up to the classes.

Mud and stones thrown

The assault which landed the mother in court was not the first time she had abused Mr Tunnicliffe.

Two or three months previously, she had been angered by the school's decision to suspend her son for three days after he verbally abused a female member of staff.

"I heard her having a dispute with the head of year in the corridor and I went along to ask her to leave the premises," said Mr Tunnicliffe.

"I showed her to the front door and stood there to see she left the school premises.

"But instead of doing that, she went to the garden and picked up stones and lumps of mud and started throwing them at me."

Mr Tunnicliffe welcomed plans to put warning posters up in schools, saying it was a step in the right direction.

"But on the other hand, the parents who come into the school and see the posters tend to be the supportive and better-behaved ones anyway," he warned.

The BBC's James Westhead
"Ministers argue a small minority is setting a bad example for their children"
See also:

02 Jul 02 | UK Education
22 Mar 02 | UK Politics
09 Jul 01 | UK Education
09 Jul 01 | UK Education
25 Mar 02 | UK Education
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