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The school where my kid attend posted in their newsletter a photo of our car, in which they made an example of us for the wrong reasons.

 

They stated that some parents lacked respect to the community by blocking the road and park illegally, and they gave an example of us by taking a picture of our car with a traffic warden standing by. The school choose on purpose to use that information without verification, because we did not do that. I wrote the school asking for an pology, but I suspect they will not and I am exploring my options here, because this has caused us a lot of stress, many parents saw the news and came to us.

 

My question is there any merit for a case to be brought against them, and if so, what is the procedure and what should I claim.  I have been going to that school of about 10 years, but I suspect eh deputy headteacher is behind this, because of an argument I have had with him lately.

Thanks

 

 

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In principle what you describe is certainly capable of being defamatory. It would be libel which is defamation in a written or permanent form. A defamatory statement has to be untrue and which is capable of damaging your reputation – and what you describe certainly seems to satisfy that.

The problem is bringing an action for defamation is difficult and risky because if you lose you could be saddled with the other side's costs which could be substantial.

I suggest that a better way forward would be to make a complaint to the school governors and also to the local authority education department. You might find that they are slow to react and that they prefer to drag their feet – but then a subsequent complaint to the local authority ombudsman might move them on.

I would certainly make sure that I had evidence of everything. This means that you should put together a detailed statement about the argument you had with the deputy head teacher. You should also start making a list of all the people who approach you and what they said. Your problem will be that if you then approach any of those people for statements, because they are worried about their own relationship with the school, they will realise that there is a risk that they might themselves find themselves in the middle of a formal dispute and it is likely that they will be very reluctant to help you.

The best thing to do is to start keeping detailed notes of what is said to you by people so that you have evidence of the difficulties it is causing you. In particular, if you find that anything is said to your child about this then I think it is capable of being put down as a form of bullying which is being facilitated by the school – possibly the deputy head teacher

I would be careful about actually pointing the finger at the deputy head teacher – as you have no evidence it is simply a suspicion. You definitely don't want to begin a complaint and then have it look as if the real purpose of your complaint is to have a crack at the head teacher and not really to undo any damage to your reputation.

I think you need to understand what you are asking for here. It is unlikely that you will be compensated unless you went to court – but I think that a full apology and a withdrawal of the allegation which has been suggested in the school magazine would be appropriate. I think it would be reasonable for you to insist on a formal withdrawal of the allegation in the next edition of the school paper.

Whether or not you ever manage to pin the blame on the deputy head teacher, will be difficult. I certainly wouldn't start making that your objective.

 

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Thank you for the reply, yes my intention is not to take them to court, but for them to withdraw such statement, it is signed by the headteacher, but she is currently away, and the deputy is acting on her behalf, I guess, I suspect it was him because of the an argument we had in which I told him that he lacked respect, also because we saw him approaching someone parking illegally the day before but him taking no action, so this is aimed at us.

 

I never mentioned the deputy explicitly, I am contacting the school directly without blaming anyone in particular.

 

I will contact the governor as you said, and may be the council, but they might be in it together and they have no interest to side with me. Ombudsman, this is a long way, the damage would have been done, but I might have to consider it ultimately.

 

There are no win no fee solicitor, do you think this is a good option ? My concerns are if it is not easy to prove my case, that would be like putting salt into the injury and rubbing it, but at the end of the day, the picture speaks for itself, and the article support my claim against them.

 

I am not sure from where they got the picture ( my wife is telling me it was a neighbour, two days ago ) so I am really fascinated how they can justify their claim ( us blocking the road ) without proper investigation and relying on other people account or pictures.

 

 

 

 

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  • Andyorch changed the title to Defamation

I suggest that you find out the identities of the governors and write a letter to all of them's, sending a copy to each. Send a copy to the head teacher as well. Also send a copy to the Department of education of your local authority.

This is not the kind of thing that a no win no fee solicitor will take on. There are no damages here to speak of – and you would want to get involved with the sister anyway.

Also, it would be worth finding out who took the picture and whether they consented to it being used like that. If they didn't then they could also be a breach of copyright

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Obviously I have no way of knowing the specific circusmtances of where your car was parked, why, or for how long so I don't know whether you were blocking the road or parking illegally. I do know that in general around schools this a major source of community tension.

 

Parents in my area regularly block the roads, park illegally, preventing access by the emergency services and local residents are unable to get into their own drives. Requests by residents to parents to move are often met by torrents of abuse from parents. Local councils frequently impose local no stopping zones at the beginning and end of the school day, deploy traffic wardens at those time (as seems to have happened here) and most recently in my area are blocking streets near the schools at school start/finish times preventing anyone without a resident permit getting within a half a mile or so of the school.

 

To be clear, I am not saying you personally did any of this, just giving some context as to why schools regularly send out requests to parents of the type your school has done. Did you find out who took the photo? Usually one of the senior staff goes out with the smartphone and takes the pictures. As a matter of interest did it show either your vehicle registration number or an identifiable picture of anyone sitting in the vehicle?

 

You also say the picture shows a traffic warden standing by your car. Did the warden ask you to move? Did the warden give you a parking ticket?

 

The next step you take is make a formal complaint about the contents of the school newsletter.  Every school has a statutory Complaints Proedure and it must be on the school's website. Download a copy of it and follow the procedures in it. There is no point in sending a complaint to every individual governor. You will just be told to follow the schools Complaints Procedure. Schools' complaints procedures can vary in detail but most are fairly standard. First your complaint will be considered by the Headteacher. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of that you can appeal to the governing body and a panel of governors (usually 3) will review the Headteacher's decision.

 

You cannot appeal to the Local Government Ombudsman because schools are outside the Ombudsman's remit. The Ombudsman has no power to consider complaints about schools and their internal management decisions.

 

Neither does the local council.

 

I am not a lawyer but for what it is worth I do not believe you would stand any chance of bringing a successful claim for defamation. You would have to prove that the newsletter had caused "serious harm" to your reputation. I cannot see how you have suffered such a high level of harm.

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If you are absolutely certain* that you were parked OK, write a letter of complaint to the Headteacher and copy in the Chair of the school governors.

 

If you or the car were identifiable in any way from the photo (eg visible registration number, driver's face etc) I would very politely write that you resent the untrue suggestion that you had parked/had stopped/were waiting in a way that contravened any traffic regulations, and that you are sure that the school will understand that you would like an apology and a correction to be printed in the next newsletter.  (You can also clearly state that you were identifiable from the photo because other parents have mentioned it to you).

 

See if that works.

 

You don't want to go to court for defamation as you'll need access to about £10k in fees before you get out of bed.  You just want an apology and a correction.  If what you've told us is accurate, I don't see any reasonable school failing to say sorry.

 

 

*My wife is a former school governor and my experience listening to her is that very very few parents actually understand the meaning of the no stopping/no waiting signs and road markings outside schools.  Don't complain unless you are sure you weren't stopped where you shouldn't have been.

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The fact is, if you were parked where you shouldn't have been, it's not defamation as the ultimate defence to a defamation claim is that the statement or implication is true. You mentioned that you had an argument with the head of the school recently, was that to do with parking by any chance?

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