Scots mum says daughter ‘let down’ after report clears school of bullying culture

The mother of a teenager who wrote an open letter to her school accusing it of being “rife” with bigotry and misconduct accused the local council of failing youngsters, after it dismissed claims of a toxic environment for pupils.

Kristie De Garis says her daughter Anna has been left “devastated, exhausted and feeling incredibly let down” after bosses at Perth and Kinross Council concluded there was “no prevailing culture of bullying or harassment” at Crieff High.

She added that her daughter had been branded a “liar” by classmates after the report was released.

Anna, a fifth-year pupil at the school, had written an open letter two months ago in which she claimed pupils were regularly the subject of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.

“All this report can tell us [is] that straight, white, cis-gendered people do not experience homophobia, racism or transphobia or think there is a culture of discrimination within our school,” Kristie said in a statement.

“The children who actually experience [this] seem to have been ignored.

“We should be listening to children like Anna, not releasing reports that state their ‘accusations’ of a culture of discrimination cannot be backed by evidence.

“What a careless and dangerous statement to make.”

She added: “Sadly, through this report I feel [Anna] and her peers have again been let down by the adults tasked with protecting and supporting them.”

Anna released the bombshell letter at the start of February. In it, she said peers were “scared to speak up” about bigotry at the hands of pupils and teachers amid fears of being bullied further.

A survey she conducted among almost 15% of the school roll found that three-quarters had witnessed racism, homophobia and sexism.

A third had also claimed to have been the victim of sexual harassment or assault.

Perth and Kinross Council has concluded there is no toxic culture

Perth and Kinross Council immediately launched an investigation into the culture at Crieff High – but replaced the lead officer just days later when it emerged he had previously been a senior member of staff at the school.

The report, released this week, concluded that the “majority of pupils” felt safe – but contained admissions that the handling of bullying and harassment reports had been “inconsistent”.

Education bosses have vowed to introduce a strengthened anti-bullying policy by the end of 2022.

Sheena Devlin, executive director of education and children’s services, said: “We want all our children and young people to live full, confident lives so they reach their full potential.

“Although I’m pleased most pupils feel the school is safe and welcoming, we know school can be an incredibly lonely place for those being bullied and we will always listen to their concerns.

“We want to reassure all pupils, parents and carers that we take bullying extremely seriously and hope the measures set out today will reassure that of our zero-tolerance approach to bullying or discrimination of any kind.”

However, Kristie says her daughter, and other children, have had traumatic and upsetting experiences dismissed.

She said: “This is the opposite of what Anna was fighting for and she is devastated, exhausted and feeling incredibly let down.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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