London

Head teacher abused in Croydon school gates smoking row

Selsdon Primary School
Image caption Susan Papas was brought in to turn around the school after it was criticised by inspectors

A head teacher who asked parents to stop smoking outside the school gates has been targeted for abuse.

Susan Papas, 53, who was brought in to turn around Selsdon Primary in Croydon in south London, accused some parents of "negativity and bad manners".

It follows a petition set up calling for her removal from the job and comments posted on the school's blog.

Mrs Papas said the abuse "has to stop" and added that she was seeking legal advice and had contacted the police.

'Smoking picket'

The problems started after Mrs Papas wrote on the school's blog: "Whilst I don't have any jurisdiction over the behaviour of parents on the street, I do have responsibility for the pupils' behaviour on their way to and from school.

"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."

Mrs Papas, who splits her time between Selsdon and Heavers Farm primary schools, said some parents replied to her post with abusive messages and hatched plans to hold a "smoking picket" to block the pavement.

She said: "I did put a very positive and gently polite message on the blog but it didn't go down very well with some parents."

'Rude and offensive'

In a subsequent post, entitled Standing up to the Bullies, Mrs Papas said: "I have been using social media for some years in my capacity as a head teacher and have never experienced the level of negativity and bad manners displayed by a handful of parents on here.

"I have also been told about the rude and offensive comments being levelled against me, and other staff, on social media. This has to stop."

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Ash, said Mrs Papas should "not give in to the minority of parents" opposing the policy.

She said: "The less children are exposed to adult smoking the less likely they are to take up the habit themselves.

"Requesting parents not to smoke in the area immediately outside the school grounds is therefore reasonable and good practice."

Angela Harbutt, from the smokers' rights group Forest, said she had sympathy for the head teacher and that the abuse could not be condoned.

But 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."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites