Primary school teacher is victim of hate campaign


Pic: Sudipto_Sarkar (Flickr)

A head teacher who took over a struggling school in Croydon was made the victim of a hate campaign after she asked parents to stop smoking at the school gates.

Susan Papas, 53, who took charge of Selsdon Primary, Addington Road, in September, brought in various changes and rules to improve the school’s discipline and took to her blog to ask parents to stop smoking at the school gates.

“In the spirit of this I would respectfully ask that adults refrain from smoking immediately outside the school as some may see this as setting a bad example.”

Papas, who keeps an online blog of all information and issues on the school, received abusive messages by a small group of disgruntled parents, including a petition of Papas’ resignation entitled ‘Get the b****es out’ aimed at her and her deputy head.

The anonymous petition was brought into school after one was put through the letterbox of a teacher’s home.

Despite the abuse, Papas said she had no intention of closing the online blog. In a subsequent post entitled Standing up to Bullies, Papas said: “I think that the behaviour of a group of parents is setting an extremely poor example… I take a strong stance against bullying of any kind, whether it is from an adult or a child.”

In reply to her post a group of parents threatened to smoke in a ‘picket line’ outside the school gates to block the pavement.

Parents who embrace the change have commented on her blog:

‘’Congratulations to Susan Papas for taking a stand against these ignorant, ill informed people and congratulations for continuing to fight for the children of your schools.’’

“You have been a very positive addition to Selsdon Primary and a true asset and putting things into perspective”.

Angela Harbutt, from the smokers’ rights group Forest, said she had sympathy for the head teacher and that the abuse was not needed.

She added: “I think she probably should have left it to the parents; they are adults and they should be able to sort it out between them.”

“I think she has stepped into the middle. I think it has gone too far, this persecution of smokers.”

A teaching assistant Elmwood Primary, Lesley, 48, who prefers to not reveal her last name and used to work at Selsdon Primary. She said:

“I do agree with what the head is doing, being a smoker myself I used to smoke outside the school gates, and whilst you don’t think your doing any harm, if you multiply the amount of people by 10 and cigarette smoke, you find the front of the gates to the school is engulfed in smoke.

Lesley believes that second hand smoke is damaging to young children and called the small group of parents kicking off ‘ridiculous’.

She said: “I worked there for almost 10 years, and I think because of the reputation Selsdon had gained and how the kids and parents got away with anything, the parents just don’t care about the rules or regulations. I think Susan Papas has done a great job turning Selsdon Primary around, it’s for the futures of the children.”

Papas addressed her latest post on her blog saying: “I have made a decision to not spend any more time dealing with the aggressive and critical messages that I have been receiving. I am sure that many of you would agree that my time is much better spent in the classrooms ensuring that all of our pupils are receiving a great education.”

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