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Thread: Need advice- false charges

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    Need advice- false charges

    Good morning everyone,
    I was not sure where to pose this question- please direct me if this is the incorrect place.
    I have a small Preschool (60 children) and have been in the teaching profession for more than 30 years. My Preschool has an excellent reputation in our area- very well staffed, qualified educators and it is all about the child. We recently enrolled a new little girl (18mths). On Sunday afternoon I received a phone call from the mother informing me that her child had been injured at school on Friday. She subsequently sent me a photograph of definite but small scratches on the child's buttock. The little girl wears a nappy. Very concerned I immediately contacted the staff concerned (a teacher who has been with me for 5yrs and an assistant who has been at the school for 7yrs) they both had no idea what I was talking about. The mother then informed me that the child had had a mark on her ear and side the first day which disappeared overnight and a small mark on her forehead one day (also not lasting until the next day.) This is a mother who phones twice a day and has never mentioned anything to myself or the teacher before. Upon further investigation I discovered that the scratches in the photo were only noticed on Sunday afternoon (48hrs after the child had been at school). This is very strange as her nappy must have been changed a few times. The parent is adamant this happened at school. I sent her to the doctor hoping this would be the last of it as the child had had a rash and could have easily scratched herself. The doctor obviously not wanting to get involved informed the parent that only a forensic pathologist could comment on the marks. The Mom said she wanted to see one and was told the only way was to lay a charge against the school- for a few scratches discovered 48hrs later??
    I have no doubt that this accusation will not stand up in court but my concerns are:
    1. If she lays a charge will I be arrested and if so what do I say to the police that arrive?
    2. The impact this could have on my school as although I know my parents in the school will stand behind me society is not so kind.
    Unfortunately I am not the first preschool to go through this- it seems to be the norm of parents who for personal reasons want to take their child out of a school without giving notice. I had just investigated lawyers for businesses but had not yet signed so I am sure they will see this as a pre-existing case. The parents seldom carry through with their threats but I have to be prepared in case this one does.
    I would appreciate any advice on this matter-
    Thanks
    Jenny

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    First thought - Take a look at your insurance covers. Do you carry insurance for possible harm that might befall the children in your care, be it arising from negligence or otherwise? If yes, it is likely to include a legal defense provision.

    Second thought -
    Quote Originally Posted by JennJenn View Post
    Unfortunately I am not the first preschool to go through this- it seems to be the norm of parents who for personal reasons want to take their child out of a school without giving notice.
    If that is the real issue, is this the sort of client you want to retain? Perhaps just let them go...
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

    Alcocks Electrical Services | Alcocks Pest Control & Entomological Services

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    Thank you for your advise Dave. I have to admit a lot of emotion came into the whole issue as my school is not just a business but my passion. My worry is not the possibility of being prosecuted as her charges are illogical and the little scratches so minor. My concern was the initial fallout-it takes years to build a reputation but a minute to destroy it. Even if false the accusation lingers. I do have legal cover that I was not aware of it. Our solution has been to call Child Protection Services in ourselves. They have examined just the photograph and have said they have such serious cases to handle they do not have the manpower to investigate something so minor that would not even fall under abuse. We also have video feeds of the child with her hands in her nappy scratching so I think now she will think twice before laying the charge. You are right though we are such a happy school we do not need to try and keep a negative influence here and I have told her that she is free to remove her little one.

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    It's not true what the doctor said about the forensic pathologist. Forensic pathologists do not waste time on such minor cases.

    What usually happens is the following:
    - If someone feels there is an assault involved, then that person must open a case
    - Then the police will give that person a J88 form, which is a medical record of all injuries
    - Then that person will go to their usual doctor and ask the doctor to fill in the J88 form. GPs are required to fill these in for their patients, although some do try to shirk the responsibility. The J88 form does not put any pressure on the doctor to say whether a crime or not has been committed, the doctor merely has to write down any findings on clinical examination, and give a reasonable conjecture as to the mechanism as to which any injury was sustained (for example, ''There is a cut wound on the left thigh, which appears to have been due to contact with a sharp object".)
    - The the J88 goes back to the police station and the investigator takes it from there. The issue is then decided in court. Provided the doctor filled in the form legibly and fully, they are hardly ever required to attend court themselves since the J88 represents their opinion anyway.

    Forensic pathologists in South Africa are generally examining crime scenes and dead bodies, minor assault cases generally only require a J88 form filled in by a GP.

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