Education and the Law -

September 17

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Q. During an online conversation with some parents at my daughter’s school I jokingly wrote that I thought the school’s head teacher was embezzling money. It wasn’t true but I thought it was funny at the time, in the context of the conversation. The school has got a copy of the comments and have contacted me to say they are taking legal advice. What should I do? 

 

This is potentially very serious for you. Given that the statement is not true, it is likely to be considered libellous because it has the potential to cause serious harm to the reputation of the head teacher and to the school. It would fall within the parameters of the Defamation Act 2013 and whilst statutory defences such as truth, honest opinion, or disclosure in the public interest are available under the act, it seems unlikely these would apply to your situation.

 

I would suggest that you immediately take the post down, if you have not already done so, to mitigate any further damage to the reputation of the head teacher and to the school. If you do not take the post down, legal action may be taken against you for its removal and this may have cost consequences for you. 

 

Social media is a great way of getting information disseminated to a lot of people very quickly. However, this benefit has a tendency to backfire on those who post damaging material, particularly if it is done without foresight of the consequences, which can be very serious. 

 

I would suggest that you notify the school that the post has been taken down. However you should bear in mind that the affected parties could take legal action against you up to 12 months from the date of publication of the statement. 

 

Q. I have two children at primary school. Both of my children have Autistic Spectrum Disorder. My eldest child has an Education Health and Care Plan setting out the provision required to meet his needs. My youngest child does not, although I think he needs it. The School’s SENCO disagrees. What can I do?

 

Under Section 36 (1) of the Children and Families Act 2014, you, as a parent, have the right to make a written request to the relevant local authority for an assessment of your son’s needs. This request does not have to come from the School. 

 

However, from a practical perspective, before you make this request, I would suggest that you arrange a meeting with the SENCO to discuss both your position and hers. Although the school are not making the request in this case, they will still need to be engaged in the process and it would be useful for both you and the school to fully understand each other’s positions, not least because it is likely this will need to be explained to the Local Authority. 

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