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Peter G.
Peter G., Solicitor
Category: Australia Law
Satisfied Customers: 767
Experience:  Law degree from the University of Melbourne 1978, with thirty years of practice experience.
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I have taught instrumental music at a sate school for ten years.

Customer Question

I have taught instrumental music at a sate school for ten years. A parent has written an extremely critical letter, stating I am morally and ethically inept as well lacking in the professional skill required to do the job. The Principal has sat on this letter for a month before letting me know and during this time canvassed other parents and staff opinions. He has since interviewed me and said that he believes there is nothing in the allegations and it is a witch hunt, However I feel a great deal of harm has been done to my reputation. This woman is also a music teacher at another school. It is odd because I have taught her child for years, she recently e-mailed me to ask for a written reference for him to attend another high school and is sending him on an international music tour I am orgainising. Nothing more seems to be going to be done about this incident, I am shocked that she can just do anything she likes " in print" in a cruel and humiliating and bullying manner and there is no accountablity at all. I wondered if I had any civil rights. Jenny Occleshaw my e-mail address [email protected]
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Australia Law
Expert:  Peter G. replied 6 years ago.

Peter J R Gauld :

Hello Jenny. Has the letter itself got any further than the Principal? I suspect it is addressed personally to the Principal?

Peter J R Gauld :

When did this happen?

JACUSTOMER-1y16j8st- :

The letter has been shown to the assistant Principal, several other teachers and several other parents. It related to a concert in September, but was only brought to my notice this week, after all these discussions with other people had taken place first. I knew about it because other teacher told me of its existence before the Principal mentioned it and I went to talk to him about it as I was concerned

Peter G. and other Australia Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Peter G. replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for that.I hope you are receiving this; I still have trouble with this website. I see you have paid. Thank you. Perhaps the system asks you to do so, but it was premature so far as I am concerned.

Nevertheless, what you are speaking about here is a defamation action. Defamation is about, largely about, publication of defamatory material. You will understand that the wider and more extensively something is published, the greater the likely damages if defamation is established.

Without your further information I was wondering whether the only person who had read the letter was the Principal. I am sure if the letter had gone no further, that is, if it had not been read by anyone else, you would have been less concerned.

However, I appreciate that this is probably not the case, and I am aware that "chatter" can spread very quickly in schools (and for that matter, beyond your own school).

Before we proceed, what were you thinking about in relation to remedy?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
When I had my discussions with the Principal he said there was no foundation in the allegations and he would write to the parent and let her know. He also said he could ask her to come in for a meeting. The problem with this is, this parent has been asked in for meetings numerous times before and has refused, particularly when it concerns an issue with music. She likes to complain very vociferously but then wont apear in person to back anything up, just spreads it around by gossiping. My concern now is that there is no resolution. She has unleashed her vitriolic missile and there is no accounting for it. I would like her to have to retract it and apologise. I accept people can hold a personal oppinion but they should not be able to try to publically destroy others professional reputations.
Expert:  Peter G. replied 6 years ago.
Totally agree. And this will have obviously spread widely by now. If you are held in high regard by the Principal and your colleagues, then the letter will have little/no effect upon your reputation. I would actually continue with what the Principal has suggested, and see what happens; the fact that she doesn't come in will I think advantage you. You could make this known to those who have knowledge of the letter. As you say, it is easy to fire a missile but harder to follow up. You could threaten her with defamation proceedings unless an apology is forthcoming; but whether you want to follow up with this is something that would have to be very carefully considered. But, I suspect that she would probably give an apology to get rid of any legal process instituted.

I am more than happy to advise further, but think this is all I can say at present. I always advise my clients that litigation is a last resort. But there are other things that can be done.