From Julie Thorpe
Many of you may have heard on the grapevine, or from your children, or you may have just read the front page of the Halifax Courier yesterday that Leonora Rustamova – known as Miss Rusty - has been suspended from Calder High.
Leonora is a teacher in the school. She is also a voluntary youth leader with the Woodcraft Folk.
There has been a demonstration by students at the school and a petition has been circulating: “We want Miss Rusty back in school” but they have been urged by the school not to draw public attention to her suspension.
It is now two weeks since she was suspended, and she is virtually under house arrest: she has been banned from speaking to children, banned from speaking to parents, and banned from speaking to other staff at the school.
What’s it all about? Basically she published a book: "Stop! Don’t read this". It is a story based on Calder High and mentions some of the children and staff. The idea was to get some young people reading who don't normally do this - by having a book to read that was about them and their friends. It is a light-hearted work of fiction. Rather than being suspended Leonora ought to be commended for being so committed to her students as to put in such a big effort for them.
Many Calder High students say that Miss Rusty stands out as the teacher they can always turn to for help.
Parents have been wondering what to do. Privately many have been expressing their disbelief at the way she has been treated.
Now that her suspension has been made public it is time for parents and young people to tell the school what they think.
The children want her back at school and Woodcraft Folk. Please help by finding time to write a letter to the school or drop them an email.
From Janet Oosthuysen
I agree Julie - Miss Rusty has been certainly to my kids the most popular teacher there since Beth who is now 18 started.
If she has made a misjudgement, it is the only one I know of, and the rumours that have been flying round school do nothing for the school or the governors.
I for one and my kids as 3 others would hate to see her go or even be disciplined. She is an inspirational teacher, one of very few anywhere.
From Robin Hoyle
The issue here is not that she wrote a book - her work in attempting to inspire young people to read and to engage with the written word in some way is to be commended. The issue is making the book available on a public website without either disguising the identities of the individuals or gaining permission to include them and the stories about them.
As someone with a 15 year old son featured in the book and apparently clearly identifiable, I am torn between being supportive of the work Miss Rusty has done - recently and in the past as many posts here and on Facebook attest - and feeling deeply frustrated that breaking a confidence in such a way is at best naive and at worst extremely damaging at a time when at least one of those featured should be concentrating on preparations for GCSE's.
I would love it to be simply a matter of a good, if unconventional teacher, rubbing up against conservative authorities - that would be so easy to identify who is right and who is wrong. In fact everyone trying to gain access to the book in order to draw their own considered judgment potentially invades the privacy and intrudes in the confidences shared between a good teacher and a group of students and colleagues who trust her enough to allow her an insight into the lives. I don't believe that Miss Rusty has acted out of malice here, but I do think her naivety betrays questionable judgement.
From Graham Barker
I don’t think my two CHS-attending children are mentioned in Leonora Rustamova’s book so I don’t have Robin’s perspective on this, but I’d also question the judgement of CHS senior management and governors. Nobody seems to dispute that Miss R wrote her book with admirable intentions, and she was quick to make it unavailable. It’s therefore difficult to see her faux pas as a major misdemeanour that should threaten her job. Surely the most proportionate way to handle this would have been informally, discreetly and while keeping her in post.
Positive options might even include getting retrospective permission from the people named in her book, and making it password protected. In choosing the sledgehammer approach of suspension, with all its implied guilt, CHS has scored an own goal by badly underestimating Miss Rustamova’s popularity and so more or less guaranteeing the publicity it sought to avoid.
I also think we should spare a thought for Miss Rustamova in her enforced isolation, because she must be feeling wretched. She’s not the first to make an honest mistake that brings the roof falling in and she won’t be the last. To err is human, but the world can seem a very unforgiving place at the time.
From Tessa Gordziejko
As a parent of one of the teenagers still at Calder High who are mentioned in the book I would like to tell those contributing to this campaign and the wider PR it is generating, of the impact that it is having.
I cannot speculate as to the effect of the actual publication on my son, as it has now been overshadowed by the campaign which has taken place in response to the enquiry. This enquiry and the suspension of the individual involved pending its outcome is, I am told by all educational professionals I know, an absolutely standard process following the alleged professional misconduct which relates to rules and standards which have been put in place for the protection of children. To demonise those who are legally bound to undertake this cannot aid the best outcome either for our school or for the individual involved.
The campaign and noise created around this matter is having a very direct impact on our personal lives. The more in the public domain the story becomes (we were contacted by the Mail on Sunday last week asking whether we wanted to comment) the greater the notoriety/ celebrity by association builds for those young people directly involved - along with the distracting drama beloved by teenagers and participation in riotous disorder at school (which is now supported it seems by apparently responsible adults in the valley).
This comes at a particularly difficult time in the management of our relationship with our fifteen year old son in the run up to GCSE’s, presenting as serious behavioural challenges which worsen on a daily basis as the campaign gathers momentum. It is not an overstatement to say that it is becoming a threat to our emotional health as a family and to our son’s ability to realise his future plans and fulfil his potential.
I think we should all refrain from bandwagon jumping or interpreting this in the manner of a tabloid headline – they will be along all too soon unless the community closes ranks and allows the due processes to take their course.
Incidentally, I would ask anyone who actually has access to the book to look at certain passages and ask themselves whether if this were a male teacher who had written about 15 year old girls in this way, while failing to disguise their identities, the support for the teacher would be quite so unquestioning.
From Holly Owen
While I sympathise with Tess's concerns and worries, I don't think we should be putting the blame on the shoulders of those parents, students, and former students of Calder High who have been expressing their support for Miss Rustamova. They are not the ones who have foolishly suspended a much loved teacher. I have read the book and I think Miss Rusty's motives in wanting to inspire her students to read are highly commendable.
It may well be the case that she has broken some authority or school rule. If that is the case, surely there would have been many other ways to deal with the matter. Perhaps even just a word in her ear would have solved this. And perhaps such rules need to be revisited.
The school, or the governors, or Calderdale - I don't know who (their silence is deafening) - decided to come down heavily. They are the ones who should be held to account. They are the ones who are damaging the reputation of both the school and one of its best teachers.
Of course the media is going to take an interest in this. It has all the ingredients of a story which could go national.
I really think the school authorities need to take urgent and immediate action to bring this issue to an end by re-instating Miss Rusty.
From Rev Tony Buglass
"Foolishly suspended a much-loved teacher"? "They are the ones who should be held to account"?
Did the school have a choice? Procedures are set in place which have to be followed - the governors may not arbitrarily set them aside, or they lay themselves open. Just imagine if they had not acted, and in response to growing publicity, something had gone wrong - a child attempted suicide, or was abducted by someone who'd fixated on them as a result of the book. What would people and the press be saying about the governors who'd failed in their duty, and thus failed to protect the children in the school? Seems to me to be a case of "damned if they do, and damned if they don't".
The comments so far show Miss Rusty an admirable teacher, and the idea of putting kids in a book so that they'd read about themselves is creative. But it isn't as simple as that, as anyone involved in child protection will know. Changing the names to protect the innocent would have been a simple solution, if that isn't being wise after the event.
As things stand, the school authorities had to do what they have done. Vilifying them helps no-one.
From Calum Paramor
It's unquestionable that Miss Rusty made a mistake but all who know her undoubtedly realise that it was certainly not intentionally malicious but rather an error of judgement.
The problem here is how it's been reacted to by the school itself. In suspending Miss Rusty far more attention has been drawn to the book, more so invading the privacy of the people mentioned within its pages.
Its worth wondering, had the school taken another road in punishing Miss Rusty (e.g. docking pay) whilst quietly asking her to take it down from the internet. Would the young people's privacy have remained more intact? I am of the opinion that it would have.
You have to take in mind that there's many Calder High students (myself included) who find themselves without a teacher. Understand as I do how the plight of the parents of young people mentioned in the book who have found their education interrupted, what about the students who have had to quickly adapt to a new teacher and as a result find themselves behind?
From Jan Holden
So, we have all agreed that she is a great teacher and didn’t mean any malice or harm. Good, that’s settled then……
But she is a trained teacher and as such should have known better. Child protection legislation is there for a purpose, it has been carefully sculpted to protect children and we cannot simply decide that we know better. I know it is a tricky call in this litigious blame culture. As a teacher who modestly attempts (when not too exhausted) to work in a creative way, I am also regularly frustrated.
But, we cannot know fully what the children take home with them, how they will react to this sort of celebrity status, how it will impact on their families etc. etc. To date, albeit unwittingly, she has caused an enormous amount of distress to several people and if this goes national the problem will only get worse.
The school has reacted entirely properly throughout and should be applauded for taking a swift, decisive and brave stand. The matter rests now, as it should do, in the hands of the school, the union and the governors. Where it shouldn’t be is in the Mail on Sunday. For if that happens Miss Rusty, the school and worst of all the children involved will be judged by that readership. Deep joy! Good work Hebden Bridge.
From Alison C
Am I following this correctly? Miss Rusty is has been suspended because she has breached Child Protection? For publishing a book with the kids' names in?
Child Protection legislation was brought in because society finally faced up to some of the horrific things a minority of adults are capable of doing to children. Specifically, the Protection of Children Act 1999 was passed to prevent paedophiles from working with children.
Who'd be teacher! What Miss Rusty has done is at worst a minor misdemeanor and I am not sure it is even that. To use the Protection of Children Act to discipline teachers for such things is way over the top. It has the added danger that using this legislation in a frivolous way or to discipline teachers for petty matters could very easily undermine the legislation itself by bringing it into disrepute, and that would be a very serious issue.
From Anne H
Hang on a minute, Alison C. It's not as if she's been arrested for breaking Child Protection laws!
She's been suspended for breaking the rules of the school. Rules that are in place to protect children. If children break the rules they have to accept the consequences. It's the same for teachers - regardless of how good they are at their job or how well liked they are.
From Alison C
Hang on a minute, Anne H. I was in fact replying to earlier posters who say she breached Child Protection legislation. Now you say it was a school rule she breached. Let's cut to the chase. If Miss Rusty has broken a school rule, which one? If she has broken Child Protection laws, which part exactly? Either way, the words sledgehammer and nut come to mind.
From Rev Tony Buglass
Alison, suspension is not being sacked, but suspended. It isn't a punishment, but part of a process: she has been suspended while the school examines what appears to be a breach of discipline, and (whether or not you like it) a possible breach of Child Protection legislation. The school governors have no choice, they have to do what the law and the school discipline requires.
Miss Rusty hasn't been sacked. She is awaiting a decision. All being well, she'll be back in the classroom in a little while, but a bit more experienced and wiser about the pitfalls of our current litigious and rule-bound society. I hope she continues to inspire children to read - but does it a bit more circumspectly.
From Collin D
It seems to me that the facts are that a committed but perhaps naive, teacher broke the rules, and was inevitably suspended pending investigation.
I strongly suspect that if the campaign to ‘save’ her hadn’t happened she would have been told to take down the book, given a quiet slap on the wrists and could, by now, have been preparing to go back at work.
However, the media storm that has been created now makes any kind of sensible resolution to this matter so much more difficult. The unions, governors, etc now have to do their jobs knowing that the eyes of the press are watching and love a good scandal, particularly one involving teachers and kids.
And of course, Miss Rusty has now to contend with the fact that not only did her judgement let her down, but thousands of people know about it.
From H Gregg
Collin – The press attention (initially in the Courier) and shortly afterwards the Save Miss Rusty's job campaign came about as a result of the suspension - not in the reverse order. If your (sensible) suggestion had been applied by CHS management at the start, the school and (more importantly) the pupils and their families would not be suffering as they surely are. The pupils concerned have been put far more 'at risk' as a result of the suspension - this should have been foreseen.
From Travis Downs
In reply to all the comments on this thread so far, I would like to add my personal perspective as one of the main characters in the book and the one who petitioned for it to be created.
I am severely dyslexic, in fact I am needing help to write this comment. Apart from the Biff, Chip and Kipper books I read when I was younger, STOP don't read this is the only book that I have not only read but wanted to read again and again. So yes ladies and gentlemen we can all agree that what she has done is remarkable and should be commended.
However I must refute some of the comments made. Firstly, there has been a lot of talk of how the book is damaging the kids. This is a complete fallacy, it is not the book that damaged my friends but instead the way in which the school dealt with it. Mr. Paramor is correct. The loss of the teacher is far more of an issue than their names being mentioned in a book. The book does not inspire any distraction form work but instead immense pride in being part of this literary masterpiece.
There is also a lot of talk of the "Save Rusty" campaign, although I disagree with some of the means that the kids have employed, something needs to be done. I agree that if the governors need to investigate then they should be able to, but to alienate anyone is wrong. Before this got into the media Mrs Rustamova was not allowed to talk to, pupils, teachers, or parents for 2 weeks and is still unable to. There is still only one point of contact, the union rep. How can we expect a fair trial of this teacher if the process leaves so many people disillusioned at the system she cannot even raise an effective defence? This is not the only issue. Can anyone tell me what rules have been broken? As far as I’m aware there is no point of law on which she done anything wrong. What is she being accused of?
Having read this book myself I must protest against the idea that children are easily identifiable. I am aware that there are two children named fully in the book. Although this is wrong, knowing them personally, and their parents, and that no official permission was obtained it is my opinion that there would be no problem in getting it. In response to Robin’s claim that his child is easily identifiable I refer him to a reasonableness test (after all that is how I feel this should have started). Would it be possible for the 'reasonable man' to know that the single name is referring directly to his child? I think not.
This is a case of making a mountain out of a mole hill, of ill-treatment of a loved teacher. This is not an issue of what, if anything, she has done wrong but the way people reacted, the children and some colleagues with admiration of her ingenuity, and the ‘powers that be’ in silencing the only people that can explain what has happened. I urge people of the valley to speak out against the treatment she has received, not to hide from potential national coverage but demand answers!
From Patrick Munsie
Please, can people stop assuming it 'difficult' for students who were mentioned in the book? A call from the Daily Mail, and a book few people have read with one mention of one's name (and in only two cases, surname) in it is not a distraction from GCSEs. We really need to be less petty.
I too would apreciate knowing anything about why she's been suspended, like under what law? Does it really take this long to 'investigate' a book about as slim as the average textbook?
Also, I apreciate that it is part of the system, but perhaps we should look again at that system??? The point of the law is to do good, not bureaucratise.
From Graham Barker
You don’t have to spend long on the CHS website to find not just full names of pupils but photos plus full names. Does the school seek permission each time it does that? Or does it assume some kind of blanket permission? If it does, as a CHS parent I’m not aware of it, but it’s one of those things that might easily slip past you as an unimportant detail among all the bits of documentation that schools generate.
Whatever the permission situation, there is abundant precedent for the online, public domain use of real names by CHS. Presumably being aware of this, it’s surely not unreasonable for Miss Rusty, or anyone else, to assume that it’s okay to do likewise with an (apparently) innocuous publication intended primarily for use by CHS pupils. There is no policy on privacy or data protection on the CHS website - perhaps there should be.
Also, unless Miss R stated in her book that all character names were those of real individuals, none but a very small number of local readers would know it. Most people in Hebden Bridge probably wouldn’t know it. When you come to a work of fiction, you assume that names too are fictional. The same can’t be said of the obviously real names on the CHS website.
From H Gregg
You're quite right Graham. There are many photos on the CHS site clearly identifying young children (one of a year 7 student alongside the headmaster!). Many local authorities issue strict guidelines on this - forbidding the use of full names alongside web photos of pupils, I could find none for Calderdale. This seems to be a case of double standards (at best). It might be a good idea to copy this letter to the school management, governors and the union rep for Ms Rustamova.
From Holly Carter
I think the above is true that full names of students and photos have been added to the Calder High school website and are very easy to get at. The book Miss Rusty put on the self publishing website you at least had to pay for.
I think the school's decision to suspend Miss Rusty and now Mr Cann as well was the wrond desicion to make. I think the school may now have realized that and are just being to stubborn to admit they were wrong.
As there was another protest today at school, one which I admit at the end got out of hand the school would be much better off to let Miss Rusty and Mr Cann back.
I also think that before the governors make their decision they should hear what the children mentioned in the book and their parents have to say.
The school have caused more disruption and publicity to the book than if they would have just mentioned something to Miss Rusty and not suspended her.
From Alice Hull
All I can really say to all this is that while I was at school "Rusty" was one of the only teachers, actually maybe the only teacher that stood out as having a positive impact on those students who really didn't see the point in school or learning. Teachers like that are hard to come by and very often unappreciated. It is clear from the students' reaction that it would be a great loss to Calder High to throw away Miss Rusty so lightly. I'd also like to say that to my knowledge, the person who set up the facebook group "Save Rusty's job" finished Calder High a few years ago and was contacted by someone at the school and told to remove it........ What?!!! seems odd and slightly childish to go to such extreme lengths to stop students and even former students having their say but hey.... that's Calder High for ya!!!!
From Adam W
See this from the Hansard Society
From Rev Tony Buglass
It seems to me that there is a lot of shouting going on, and not very much listening. A number of things need to be made clear:
I recommend that the students calm down a bit, and listen to what they have been told so far.
My one serious question about the situation as I understand it (which is only from what I have read here and in the press) is that it seems to be taking far too long. It is now 2 months since she was suspended, and taking such a long time to investigate the matter could itself be construed as maladministration and injustice. I understand from my own union rep that it is usual in industry for such enquiries to be given priority, and resolved as quickly as possible. I think the sooner Calder High gets this resolved the better. But I'm sure they think that, too.
From Graham Barker
Tony, just because a ‘process’ exists doesn’t make it right or put it beyond criticism, especially when it’s as clumsy and protracted as this one. I think it’s to the credit of many of Miss Rusty’s present and past pupils that they’re not prepared to accept the unexplained summary removal and isolation of a popular and valuable teacher, and are willing to turn themselves into an awkward squad - albeit a commendably civilised one - to make their objections heard.
And as for your advice: ‘Students, if you want to help Miss Rusty, stop shouting about it’ - isn’t that exactly the patronising argument that autocratic organisations regularly trot out when they want to suppress dissent or avoid scrutiny? Was your trade union built on acquiescence? Was Christianity, come to that, built on acquiescence?
I think CHS has mishandled this ‘consequence’ from the start, and has only itself to blame for the resulting publicity and embarrassment. One hopes it will remain an excellent school, but it may struggle to rebuild the stakeholder trust it was perhaps too ready to take for granted.
Stop blaming everybody else. If this teacher had stopped to think before she acted, she would still be in her job and kids' education wouldn't be disrupted. Teachers are supposed to be intelligent people and it doesn't seem like she acted very intelligently. She's got only herself to blame.
From Holly Owen
I think the children of Calder High School who demonstrated on Wednesday are to be congratulated. We should be proud that they care enough to do something. For many of them, it will have been an educational experience, and something they will talk about and remember for years to come. If some didn't behave then perhaps the school ought to be including "protest" on the curriculum as part of their political and social education - how to effectively demonstrate and influence organisations and institutions which are acting badly or unreasonably.
Rather than blame the children (who should be applauded) what about blaming their parents who seem to be doing nothing about the injustice done to these two popular teachers? Why aren't they down at the school with their placards? Many of them are quick enough to demonstrate about other things.
So although I am disappointed with most of the Rev's most recent post (he often makes really good sense), I do agree with him about the length of time. It is five weeks since I wrote on this forum, "I really think the school authorities need to take urgent and immediate action to bring this issue to an end by re-instating Miss Rusty."
From Jan Holden
As a veteran of several picket lines and many political campaigns and having a father who was imprisoned and deported from a couple of countries for his politics and a son recently involved in the university occupations, I would be the last person to condemn young people from being politically involved. Learning to take an active part in the shaping of their society is both commendable and desirable.
However the wise citizen knows that you have to pick your fights. That the Rusty /Cann investigation is taking a while will not be down to the school dragging it’s feet. No one will be more anxious than Mr Ball to get this all cleared up so everyone can get back to work. But there is due process and it takes time.
The teachers are likely to be represented by the NUT, this is not a fascist organisation, but a trades union, a group of concerned and well trained people who will be on their side. They will have been advised not to talk to anyone, not by the school, but by their legal advisors. If no one’s opinions have been sought it will be the choice of the teachers legal teams, the school at this point will have no control over it whatsoever.
I am sure that the messages of support for both the teachers will comfort them greatly, and am always pleased and proud to see young people standing up for things that they feel are wrong or unjust (we need more such people in our society). However in this case I feel that to attack the school is counter productive and adults who misinform youngsters or encourage ill thought out action are irresponsible.
From Rev Tony Buglass
Graham, are you saying that the process here is unjust? The only problem so far seems to be the time it is taking to resolve the matter, but there is no allegation of injustice or bullying, is there?
It is taking too long. That could be because the authorities are being careful to protect the teachers involved, but it is still too long.
Far from being patronising, I respect the students for their involvement, but a demo such as last weeks only serves to up the ante. If battle lines are drawn and become hardened, it becomes more difficult for those directly nvolved to act with justice and care.
From Travis Downs
As one of the main organisers of the protest, I would like to say that it was meant as an entirely peaceful affair. However managing a protest in a high school is never an easy task.
But it needed to be done, we have tried quieter methods, which meet with dead ends.
Now we have had a protest we will continue with the quieter methods, as me and the other organisers believe protests as only necessary if more passive methods are ignored.
From Holly Owen
Noam Chomsky has written "The most effective way to restrict democracy is to transfer decision-making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions."
"Due process", proper procedures. Yes, we need these things. But sometimes to get justice, we do need to "raise the ante", to use the Rev's phrase. I am sure the CHS History teachers could give us plenty of examples of people raising the ante to right an injustice.
We have two teachers not able to do their job and students who need them. They're apparently accused of committing some offence but after reading the debate here and on Facebook and following the local press reports, I can't really see what these offences are. Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. We need to know what is going on, and, yes, to raise our voices.
From Tessa Gordziejko
I agree with Jan – lets put this into some sort of perspective. There is a sense from many of the entries both here and on facebook, that to be anything other than completely supportive of this campaign is to be an enemy of free speech and of the right to peaceful protest. I too spent many hours of my younger life on marches and demonstrations, including time spent at Greenham Common, and I feel that in doing so I did make a difference. From time to time I still get involved in demonstrations of support for causes that I feel are particularly important.
So I feel saddened that the passions and leadership skills of a number of Calder High students should have been channelled into direct action which was counterproductive in the impact on the cause it wants to support. A protest which in effect became a riot makes the job of those who are professionally charged with presenting the best possible case for the teachers at the centre of the enquiry, infinitely more difficult.
I think the students who led the action know that it got out of hand and ended up damaging the cause – what started as a peaceful protest outside the school gates became an out of control rabble, the majority of whom were more concerned with skiving lessons or vandalising property. As my son is one of those more closely involved in the original protest, we are hoping that the unintended consequences of the protest will not encourage any further action of this kind and we are supportive of the more constructive and effective ways that he and his cohort are now seeking to have their viewpoint included in the hearing evidence, as Travis has mentioned.
Any further actions would be deeply disruptive to school life and most critically to those Year 11 students who are approaching the difficult time of GCSE deadlines and exams. Among the contributions I have read from students, many have paid tribute to the commitment shown by both Ms Rustamova and Mr Cann in using a different personal style to help students to positively embrace education. It would be a bitter irony if the outcome of the cause which claims to be at one with their principles were to be to deny students the opportunity to fulfil their potential at this stage, and possibly to deny them future educational opportunities.
Whilst I don’t blame the students for wishing to have their voices heard, I do resent the involvement of adults in the community who are not parents at the school, who have encouraged and aided the students in this action. They may be friends of the two teachers involved, but that does not give them the right to spur young people on to activities which will affect their ability to complete their education at the school. I would urge these adults not to encourage or abet any further action as in doing so you will be damaging both your friends’ cause and the futures of our children. If you continue on this course it would for myself, and many I have spoken to, confirm an opinion already starting to form, that you are motivated not by the best interests of the students or school but from a somewhat pathetic desire to relive your past youth vicariously through our young people.
From Jan Holden
Holly, though Chomsky is of course right, it may just be that the reason that this is not all in the public arena yet is because it is not in the teachers' best interests for it to be so. I refer you to the comment made by Mr Ball on the front page of this week’s HB Times ‘The teacher’s at the centre of this matter are professionally represented and advised and it is in their interests that I continue to respect their entitlement to confidentiality’.
Frustrating though it may be not to know the full details of both the cases, actions such as these will not right any perceived injustice, but will only serve to compound the issue and keep children for even longer away from their studies. Believe me the exam boards will not accept ‘involvement in political activity’ as a mitigating circumstance for all those children who should at this point in time be completing coursework or finishing off the last sections of the GCSE specifications.
From Claire G
Miss Rusty is one of the best, teachers in the school. She needs her job back! I wasn't in Mr C's class but everyone says for English he's brilliant. This is really mad.
From Patrick Munsie
Might I remind people that GCSEs are hardly likely to be failed by a day less of work, and a bit of excitement. The students get two weeks' study leave beforehand, and any students that are responsible and deserving of GCSEs will not allow themselves to be distracted. I'm speaking as a 2008 GCSE student.
And Tessa, for goodness sake read Travis's comment. We want answers, not some Nelson Mandella style return of Miss Rustamov. If quiet voices are ignored, they will get louder until they are answered - freedom of information etc
From Vera Demilo
I have been following this matter closely in recent times and believe that it is a subject that should be dealt with, quite simply, between the school and the indviduals involved.
Does anyone actually believe that a bunch of teenagers and parents, trying to relight the revolutionary youths, opions actually matter when the law has been broken. I can't think of a time when a criminal has been released from jail because they 'inspired children'...
Mr. Ball is an excellent head teacher and the school are extremely lucky to have him. I would like to remind those comparing him to Mr. Scott that Mr. Scott severely punished all the peace protesters a few years ago. Whereas Mr. Ball has respectfully accepted the recent protest for what it was. Personally i would have purged the lot of them.
From Patrick Munsie
'Purged'? Does that not say just about everything about attitudes to teens nowardays?
And I hate to say it Vera, but we don't actually know if the law has been broken, let alone which law. It's still 'an alleged incident' 'under investigation'..... as it was about a month ago.
If people had listened to what myself and Travis Downs have put at least twice now, they might get it - we want to know what law Miss Rusty has apparantly broken, so we can look at it, and make a more informed decision as to whether we as individuals beleive she has broken it. That is why these protests have happened, because of the pig headed belief that a petition by hundreds of pupils is negligible as naive and useless.
From Alice Rushworth
Thanks, Vera, for proving that freedom of speech should also be the right of those who do not support this protest. And Patrick: "We want to know what law Miss Rusty has apparantly broken, so We can look at it, and make a more informed decision as to whether We as individuals believe she has broken it"...sorry, but in this country the law is investigated and administered by trained professionals, not by schoolboys. You won't be making any decisions, informed or otherwise.
There are so many cases of real injustice in this world; let's join forces to tackle issues where we can actually make a difference. Like the students from Calder High who are going out to Africa this summer to work in a poor community.
From Patrick Munsie
I meant to decide personally, I'm not saying any of us should weild some community power over what happens, obviously. I'm staying away from any protest untill I know whether the suspension was reasonable or not. And that is what we've been asking (well, we don't know who we're even asking yet) since day one, with zilch in response.
But again 'schoolboy'. What's with the idea that age somehow makes me naive and ignorant? I attend collage , and am taking 5 A levels, with one A grade already under my belt.
And I agree there are bigger problems, but a problem's a problem, eh? We do the best we can for Africa with Fairtrade etc.
From Graham Barker
Nice display of bunker mentality by the chair of CHS governors in this week’s HBT. He could have gone a long way towards defusing the situation by acknowledging the loyalty of pupils to two popular teachers, explaining more about the workings of the disciplinary procedure, maybe accounting for the delay and giving some indication of an end date. All this could have been done without compromising anybody or anything.
Instead, we get old-school blame game. I had to read his letter two or three times to convince myself that the words ‘communist’ and ‘conspiracy’ weren’t actually in it. He ends by accusing unspecified adults of creating an atmosphere in which ‘the education of the students is affected at this crucial time in their studies’. This is rather rich, as there can’t be many better ways of affecting the education of students than removing their favourite teachers.
I’m pretty sure I’m not among the mysterious ‘tiny number of adults’ causing all the mischief, but who knows when the accusation is so vague? Having digested Ron Good’s letter, I’d now be strongly tempted to join them if asked. If the governors care about the school and the community, they really must abandon this ‘you must trust us, but we won’t trust you’ attitude and start delivering reasonable answers to perfectly reasonable questions.
From Anne Handley
I think it's good that students are more involved in discussing moral issues these days and feel they can express their views openly, even to the point of protesting where there is a chance that they can sway opinions and make a difference.
But I also think that we are missing an opportunity here to teach them about the world of work, which is what this issue is all about.
I wonder how many of the comments on this forum are by people who have an employment contract themselves and how many are by students, freelancers or self-employed workers who are not answerable to employers in this way.
From Kris McKenna
Having just read the most recent publicity and open letter from the Friends and Supporters of Rusty and Steve I would welcome some clarification on a few points.
I note that the open meeting is being held at 7.30pm on Thursday 26th March at Salem Mill which I believe is the usual time and venue for the weekly Hebden Bridge Woodcraft Folk activities. Am I right in assuming therefore that this meeting has in fact been organised by the local branch of Woodcraft Folk?
The organisers are calling this an ‘open meeting’. However, their publicity states that they ‘welcome anyone who wants to come and express their support for the teachers to come along’. Does this mean that only those who support this campaign will be allowed in, and anyone who might prefer to express their support for Stephen Ball and the Governors will be barred from the meeting?
I would also query the statement that ‘the children of the school have shown overwhelming support for these teachers by protesting and writing glowing testimonials on web forums’.
The protest at the school was attended by around 250 students. I think Calder High has a student role of 1200/1300 students so it would appear that only a very small minority actually took part. I would also question how many of those 250 were there actually to support Ms. Rusty and how many of them were just using the protest as an excuse to bunk off classes. Looking at some of the postings on Facebook it would appear that even supporters of the protest acknowledge this was indeed the case.
Until this campaign started I had never looked at Facebook so I assumed that the 864 members of save Miss Rusty group represented the number of postings in support of her. I was surprised, therefore, to discover there were in fact only 125 postings on the site and of these 46 were from people who contributed more than once. In fact 19 of the posts were from just three individuals. F
Finally, I am disappointed to see that some emotive phrases continue to be used by organisers of this campaign. In particular "she is virtually under house arrest". I am surprised that a member of Woodcraft Folk, an organisation which does such brilliant work in promoting the plight of refugees and asylum seekers, seems to be comparing the plight of Ms. Rusty to people like Aung San Suu Kyi and Mordechai Vanunu.
From Patrick Munsie
The meeting is called a 'Friends of Rusty and Cann' meeting for a reason. It's a meeting to decide action on what the community can do to support them. After all, friends of Rusty and Cann seem to be barred from just about everywhere else!
Woodcraft Folk is held at 8:30, but attendees are welcome to come along and discuss, then go to normal Woodcraft Folk. Woodcraft are involved. But I'd consider this only fair, as most of the momentum for the protest and handing out badges originated from early meetings at Woodcraft Folk.
As for Facebook membership, remember not everybody has a Facebook - Eg I don't, hence that's one member already lost. And as said in other people's previous comments, people might be unsure as to whether to put their point across.
Graham, a well written response to the 'information' given by the governers!
From Julie Thorpe
Over the past few days the Woodcraft Folk has been accused of orchestrating and manipulating young people - students at Calder High School - particularly of encouraging them to take disruptive action.
It is time the people who are making these allegations either produced some evidence or apologised.
I have given up most of my spare time as a volunteer youth leader with the Woodcraft Folk groups in the Valley for the last 10 years. Our Venturer (13-15) and DF (16-20) groups are just about the only youth provision left in this town, apart from the uniformed organisations. We have thriving groups which lots of teenagers come to because it is an atmosphere where they feel comfortable and confident about expressing their ideas and opinions.
The Venturer group meets, with adult leaders at Salem Mill every Thursday. We rent four rooms there. The DF group meets at the same time but this is self organised by its members. Patrick - whose post appears above - is a member of the DF group.
Young people have inevitably raised the issue for discussion at our group meetings – because the young people are very concerned about the situation.
In the course of these discussions - initiated by the young people - at the Venturer group we have always encouraged a constructive and responsible approach. We have repeatedly emphasised to the young people the reasons why the school is not able to discuss the details of the case with them.
Empowerment and support are a fundamental part of Woodcraft Folk philosophy. Conversely, directing the thinking of young people is the antithesis of what Woodcraft Folk is all about. I find the accusations made by Kris (above) and in the Hebden Bridge Times last week highly insulting.
The campaign group is in no sense a Woodcraft Folk group. Whilst some members of Woodcraft Folk may be involved, this is in their personal capacity, and they are not representing the Woodcraft Folk.
A young person in our DF group had proposed hosting the public meeting next Thursday as the hall was available at short notice and large enough. This was dependent on the DF group generally wanting to do this (which they did) and also dependent on it being agreed by the venue’s management. The other Woodcraft Folk groups will be running as normal on Thursday.
I posted the first item on this forum about Miss Rusty's suspension. I was fed up with the shroud of secrecy and fear which had been drawn over the situation. I posted that in an individual capacity. Kris is now using the opinion I expressed (that Miss Rusty was 'virtually under house arrest') to slur the whole organisation which I happen to belong to. That is very underhand way of criticising someone who dares to express an opinion that Calder High's governors don't like.
Young people are constantly criticized for being apathetic but as soon as they voice their opinions or take action on issues which concern them then those who don't like it start saying they are being manipuliated.
From Jan Holden
I will not be attending the meeting because I do not support a teacher who publishes information on a website that identifies students in her care, and I do not expect to be informed as to ‘what is going on’ as it is none of anyone’s business but the teachers involved and the school itself. I do not believe that anything was ‘shrouded in mystery’ for this reason and neither do I believe that anyone in this country is under house arrest. Really!!! This is all too silly.
From Kris McKenna
Julie – What accusations? I merely asked for clarification of some issues and questioned whether the actual level of support for Ms. Rusty and Mr Cann was as strong as some publicity had led me, and probably others, to believe. If a link has been drawn between the Save Ms. Rusty campaign and Woodcraft Folk then perhaps you, yourself, bear some responsibility for this with the comments made in you first posting back in February. If, as you say, you were writing in a personal capacity perhaps it was unwise to mention Woodcraft Folk twice in your posting
You say that you have repeatedly emphasised to the young people the reasons why the school is not able to discuss the details of the case with them. Do you not think that by publishing comments such as “she has been banned from speaking to children, banned from speaking to parents, and banned from speaking to other staff at the school” might undermine the message you are trying to get across to them. I can’t imagine that using phrases such as ‘shroud of secrecy and fear’ in your latest posting does anything to help either. It has already been pointed out by many other posters on this forum that the teachers will have been advised not to say anything by their union, not the school.
I never at any point attempted to slur Woodcraft Folk as an organisation and, if you read my letter again, you will see that I actually refer to brilliant work they do. What I do object to is your inappropriate use of the phrase ‘house arrest’. I felt uncomfortable when you first used the term back in February, but decided not to challenge it on that occasion as I appreciated emotions were running high and thought that, with reflection, future postings might not contain such inflammatory language.
Sadly this doesn’t appear to be the case as the publicity materials produced on 18th March by the ‘Friends of Rusty and Steve’ illustrate. Your comments that Ms. Rusty is under ‘house arrest’ and banned from speaking to anyone are there on the front page. It wasn’t clear from your post whether you are involved with this group in a personal capacity, but even if you are not I would have thought that they wouldn’t have included a quote from you without your permission.
From Patrick Munsie
Jan - If a friend, or someone that you depended on, was put through this, would you not make it your business? And yes, the case is 'shrouded in mystery'. Absolutely nothing has been told to anybody, which makes me suspicious of exactly how fair this process is.
Kris - Julie said that 'she (Mrs Rustamov) had been been banned from speaking to children, banned from speaking to parents, and banned from speaking to other staff at the school' for a reason. It's true! As for house arrest - what else do you call it? No contact with a huge portion of her life for at least a month - what else can she do?
From Julie Thorpe
In my original posting I did mention the Woodcraft Folk. I stated two facts: that Miss Rusty was helping at a Woodcraft Folk group up to the time of her suspension and that the young people wanted her back there. I also said “Many Calder High students say that Miss Rusty stands out as the teacher they can always turn to for help.” That doesn’t mean I am making an official statement on behalf of Calder High School any more than the references to Woodcraft Folk mean that I am making an official statement on behalf of the Woodcraft Folk – you are being very selective about which bits of my comments you choose to twist.
I stand by my remark about the ‘shroud of secrecy and fear’. For two months the school made no an announcement to pupils or parents about the suspension. Students who have asked their teachers what is going on have been told that it cannot be discussed (without any explanation of why it cannot be discussed). In the first few weeks a number were told, untruthfully, that she was ill or had gone to Russia! Many have told me that no statement about the suspension or the ‘process’ (explaining why the issue cannot be discussed) has been made in a school assembly and the first time parents were informed about this was in a letter sent home after the demonstration on 11 March.
What accusations, you ask? I won't list them all, but for example the ones made by the Chair of the School Governors in the Hebden Bridge Times last week – with which I am sure you are familiar. Whilst the newspaper did not explicitly mention the Woodcraft Folk or any individual by name it is odd that the Director of Children’s Services for Calderdale has made exactly the same allegation about Hebden Bridge Woodcraft Folk leaders to National Officers of the Woodcraft Folk. Don’t tell me this is coincidence! And don’t tell me that you are unaware of these!
In my original posting I said that Leonora was ‘virtually under house arrest’. If you look up the word ‘virtually’ in the dictionary you will find that it means ‘in essence or effect but not in fact’. I was suggesting that the restrictions placed on Leonora by the school had a similar effect to ‘being under house arrest’. Just try imagining living/working in this valley and being banned from speaking to any staff, students, or parents of Calder High. You wouldn’t dare go shopping, or into a pub, or for an evening out with friends for fear of breaching this ban! I did not draw any comparision with any prominent human rights campaigner anywhere else in the world – you inferred that.
I was not the author of the Friends of Rusty and Steve letter which uses the same phrase but I don’t think I would get very far if I tried to take action against them for breach of copyright for using the same phrase!
You say that “It has already been pointed out by many other posters on this forum that the teachers will have been advised not to say anything by their union, not the school.” Perhaps you or other posters on this forum would like to substantiate that assertion?
Several posters on this forum seem to be saying that children should be ‘seen but not heard’. They are entitled to hold this opinion but it is not one I can agree with. What sort of society are we heading for if we continually deny them any right to express their indignation where they perceive injustice?
From Margaret Boyle
I have been thinking about whether to go to the meeting at Salem tomorrow and express the view that all those who wish Ms Rustamova and Mr Cann well should now shut up. I cannot see that all this speculation and emotion is doing them any good at all. Ms Rustamova and Mr Cann will now be very well aware of the affection and respect so many students and ex-students have for them and I am sure will be strengthened by this.
What we need now is much less heat and a lot more maturity. The teachers themselves, their union representatives and the school governors too have rights here, including the right to have this difficult process dealt with in confidence. Those of us who are interested observers because we have children at the school need to respect the confidentiality inherent in such a process and let the people at the centre of it get on with it.
From Susan Burns
I don't know exactly what it is the teachers stand accused of or exactly why they've been suspended. Until I know this, and that an injustice has been done, I can't come to the support meeting tomorrow, as I don't have enough information. So I'm sitting on the fence, in good company as it happens. I haven't read the book, although I love its title and I wish the students' names had been fictionalised. Mistakes have obviously been made, probably on all sides, and it looks as if lines have been crossed. Maybe there's no way back. I do know that my children and many of their friends think Mr Cann and Miss Rusty are fabulous teachers - and not because they are 'lenient' or that they court popularity, but because they are imaginative, talented form tutors and teachers: great story-tellers, leading interesting lessons, with excellent classroom control, using their own empathetic personal styles to engage students in learning. Many students are genuinely upset and worried about what will happen. That's why they protested, as well as believing that they were not given information they feel they were entitled to and that they have no stake in the outcome. Whether that's right or wrong of them is immaterial - that's how things are.
Mr Cann and Mrs Rustamova are not the only good teachers at the school - there are many others - look at the achievements in dance as just one example. Many teachers go that extra mile. Lord help us if education were to be reduced to tick-box competencies. I also support the teachers and the management of the school and feel for them in the difficult tasks they face, and wish for a happy end to this sorry saga. Maybe that's too much to hope for. Can there be a creative solution? The internet's been a big player in the suspensions' aftermath. Maybe the solution's out there in cyberspace. One thing's for sure - the old left/right, right/wrong, us/them, liberal/authoritarian, union/management contrary positions, agendas and dichotomies won't hold here. Life's just more messy, complex and (old hippy word I know) wonderful than that.
From Jem T
Of course, there must be a proper process to deal with any allegations. But that shouldn't be used as an excuse for trying to make everyone keep quiet.
We have a large number of teachers living in Hebden Bridge, and I am one of them. I find it frightening that someone might make an unfounded allegation against me, that I would be suspended, perhaps not even be told what the accusations are, my good name questioned, the case allowed to drag on for months and I am not even allowed to talk with colleagues and students who might easily be able to refute any charges.
OK, I am in one of the teachers' unions and they could represent me. But to be honest, I wouldn't have a lot of faith in my union. I've seen colleagues with problems - not like this one - and really to be frank the union often do management's job for them.
And then there's the disciplinary hearing. Even though I am a teacher I have no idea how this would work. Presumably, it's made up of governors. Are these governors trained to deal with complex cases like these? Or would they lean strongly on the "advice" of the Head and council officials? Is there a right of appeal? Where is all this information available? What could I do, in the circumstances where I was being unjustly accused, if some governors or their friends were, hyperthetically, to show themselves to be partial by writing to local papers and websites?
And confidentiality! Clearly, some things must be kept confidential. But is the notion of confidentiality really used to protect teachers and students or as a cloak of secrecy for schools to hide behind? Personally, if I were facing false allegations I would want to shout from the rooftops about the injustice.
Perhaps a couple of positive results which might come out of this whole affair is firstly, a reappraisal of how allegations against teachers are dealt with and secondly, the recognition that the wider community has an interest and role to play in local education. But I won't hold my breath.
From Graham Barker
As someone who isn’t a friend of either Rusty of Steve (because I don’t know them) and whose only connection with this affair is as a parent of CHS pupils, I think that Miss Rusty’s suspension was unnecessary, has dragged on far too long, and has been handled with moral dishonesty by CHS. I also think there have to be serious question marks over the impartiality of disciplinary judgments made entirely by governors of the school involved.
If airing those views impairs anyone’s confidentiality, I’d like to know how.
I only mention Miss Rusty because I know nothing about Steve Cann except that he is held in high regard as a teacher. Good luck to them both.
From Patrick Munsie
Susan, just a quick note - having shown our support, a lot of us are now turning to asking what exactly is going on, and as Thursday's meeting showed, finding out anything is now our main objective.
Also, thanks to everyone that showed up and had their say (especially as my 'speech' was rather ad lib and awful). Nice to see such a variety of people attending!
From Madeleine Duke
I feel the need to defend not only Rusty and Steve but the very fabric of our society.
A society in danger of falling victim to a cultural current that is threatening to turn us all into a nation of jobsworths. Any individual prepared to go that extra mile and actually make a difference in people's lives is in this cultural climate effectively placing their job on the line. Is this a vision of what we want our society to become?
Both Rusty and Steve are inspirational teachers who genuinely care about the education and welfare of their pupils. They were prepared to take on the education of pupils that the rest of the school appeared to have turned their back on. Is this the way that their outstanding levels of commitment to their profession should be rewarded? Should this serve as a warning to other potentially inspirational teachers to keep their heads down and keep their jobs?
From Michael Piggott
I have emailed the headteacher of Calder High as follows:
'As a retired teacher myself and as the parent of three children who attended Calder High (one of whom is a writer and published novelist who was inspired by Steve Cann) I am disgusted at the pusillanimity displayed by yourself and the chair of the governors of your school over this affair.
'Your actions are in the worst traditions of Stalinism and are reminiscent of the corruption currently being displayed by the UK government in covering up the malpractices of certain parliamentary members, and of the greedy banking fraternity.
'Show some courage man, and immediately reinstate the two suspended teachers!'
A similarly-worded letter has been sent to the chair of governors.
I accuse the school of Stalinism because of the attempted complete suppression of free speech, especially among the students; what kind of example is this to set the young people? Also for the mounting of a campaign to dismiss outside critics as troublemakers trying to stir up the kids. The school authorities have panicked, know in their hearts that they are wrong and are attempting a cover-up of their actions, just like the corrupt bankers and expense-account-abusing MPs.
What a contemptible shower!
Mick Piggott, Mytholmroyd
From Andrew Hall
I have to say I'm not entirely happy with Michael Piggott's post.
From Michael Piggott
Andrew, as I made clear in my letter, the comparison of the school authorities' actions to Stalinism relates to their repression of free speech. I haven't accused them of slaughtering the opposition! But they certainly have tried to repress free speech and I think it's fair to compare that with Stalinism and/or, indeed, fascism.
Their actions certainly are cowardly and a dreadful example to the students and I make no apology for condemning them for it.
However, on reflection they may have performed a useful function in teaching young people about the duplicity of Authority. Maybe it will help the students' progression towards an understanding that society is rotten and corrupt from the top down and this requires a revolutionary overthrow from the bottom up!
(I trust you recognise irony when you see it.)
Bye for now. Mick Piggott
From Patrick Munsie
Just a quick thought, how libelous is the article by Colin Drury? I mean, the misinformation in it looks like the kind of thing people usually sue for.
Hebweb News: Don't Read this (updated 27March 2009, to include a report of the public meeting)
FaceBook group: "Save Miss Rusty's Job"