Come with me on this journey, you’re a teacher who breaks through the doors of a science prep room at the end of a hard day and a colleague (a woman of colour) is bent over, cowering in the corner. She is physically shaken. Marks on her hands and wrists, in fits of tears. Let me set the scene, she is 5 ft tall and with a petite frame around half the size of my own.TW: Assault. Come with me on this journey, you're a teacher who breaks through the doors of a science prep room at the end of a hard day and a colleague (a woman of colour) is bent over, cowering in the corner. Click To Tweet
She is inconsolable, the headteacher had come into the department to find her after she asked for external representation, he’d started by grabbing her hands trying to get a hold of her paperwork, he apparently thought it was advice from her union. What she then went on to describe was simply abuse, I will not go into further details.
She was visibly distraught, after being attacked, yes attacked is the right word. A female deputy head enters into the room and asked what has happened? I’m sitting next to her thinking this isn’t helping.
My colleague had already told me what had happened. Now, she was being gaslighted by a member of senior staff who wasn’t in the room. When my colleague went to reach for the phone to call for help (the police) the female deputy placed herself in front of the phone.
That was the last time I saw my colleague.
I urged her to fight that afternoon, as an old union representative this felt like my duty. This was, in fact, my own privilege talking, as for me there is nothing more important than fighting for justice there were no other considerations.
She called me the day later, she said nothing but:
“Please don’t say anything to anyone Pran, I won’t get any money, if anyone does, I can’t afford for this to drag out. I’m a good teacher, hopefully, I’ll get another job before I run out of money”.
Yes, later she signed the non-disclosure agreement because she had very little choice. Nothing happened to that headteacher, no reprimands, no assault charges, nothing. In this case, a headteacher had power over a vulnerable woman of colour. This is not justice. This is oppression. An example of insidious systemic oppression where a middle-class white man can physically attack a woman of colour and still have the power to silence her without fear of any consequences.
Although to this day I wished she would have fought. She could not.
TW: Assault. There are ways of gathering evidence around the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements. It may be the right time to work out who is using them. Click To Tweet
My current thinking: There are ways of gathering evidence around the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements. It may be the right time to work out who are using them. I for one would not like to be working in an organisation that is using them prevalently. Why would a school leader need a non-disclosure agreement is beyond me, we are teachers and leaders ultimately charge with the welfare of children.
Those days are over. Misogyny, racism and classism may be alive and well in our society but we, together, are now much better placed to fight them.
Please do not assume the identity of the school, I have worked in, consulted and visited hundreds of schools over the last 15 years.