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HI, what are your policies in this situation


Can you help?

I have a friend who has found herself in the unenviable position of being threatened with a knife by a parent. The father turned up demanding to see his son and as access is denied the child was removed leaving the teacher with the irate father.


Needless to say my friend is more than a little distressed by the ordeal and is concerned about returning to work, immediately because the police have as yet failed to apprehend the man and in the long term recognises that perhaps their policy needs reviewing.


What do you do?

Has anyone else been in this sort of terrible situation?

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Hi Susan

What a terrible situation for your friend to find herself in. I hope she is ok.

Just makes you stop and think doesn't it? We don't have a policy for dealing with such a situation but I think this is something I will want to talk to my staff about next week.


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Hi Susan -

You say the policy may need reviewing - what is the current policy at your friend's setting?


And have the police taken the incident seriously but been unable to find the father, or are they not taking any well defined action?

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How did the man get near the children and teacher? Was it in the playground or in the school building? Our children attend a school where they have just introduced an intercom system for parents and visitors to gain access. Of course, this doesn't apply to the playground, just the building. But if it happened in the playground, the teacher would not have had to deal with it alone...other teachers, caretakers, support staff and parents etc would have been around.

Is social services involved? If not, I'd phone them immediately. The Famly Services Unit in our area must respond within 24 hours of such a referral. They may be able to intervene in the immediate future, and maybe even calm him down, point out that it's doing no good in his case, etc.

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Hi Susan,


What an awful thing to have to face up to. xD Does the school not have some sort of security system? It's a sad fact but nowadays you can't afford to let your guard down. Part of the problem is we all get a little complacent and never expect this sort of thing to happen to us. I would agree that there needs to be a review of the schools policies as your friend was put on a terrible situation. For a start, there should always be 2 members of staff present if you're dealing with an irate person. :o

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Hi all, thanks for your thought so far


The procedure the school has in place is that in the specific case of a parent trying to access a child that they are not allowed access to (usually through a court order or injunction), then one member of staff removes the child to a place of safety (usually the Heads' office) whilst help is found and if necessary the police called. Under normal circumstances that would have left 2 members of staff remaining in the nursery, but on this occasion only one.

Most of the children had already gone home as it was a parents afternoon, and the nursery had closed early. He got in, as often happens, as another one parent left.

He introduced himself quite politely asking after the child , to which her colleague 'heard' alarm bells and took the child away as per procedure. There were no other parents around, in fact they were waiting for the mum of this child to collect.


The nursery is at the end of the school car next to the carpark that the parents are expected to use. Ths means that there are frequently many people around that she does not know just outside the windows and main door. So for security at home times they do always try to have someone on the door, both morning and afternoon, but it wasn't a normal day when this happened.


The police were called and my friend has given a statement but to her knowledge the man hasn't been apprehended yet. The mum has not seen him since he attacked her in an attempt to abduct the children. She now lives with other family members. She is really thankful that she was late picking him up as there could have been a clash if they had seen each other. The first she knew about what had happened was when she arrived to collect, he had gone by then.


My friend and her colleague were obviously aware that the father did not have access but she is not immediately sure what socila services know about the family, so will look into this when she gets to work.


She is very distressed and feeling guilty that she did handle the situation properly.

It is worrying that there are lunatics out there and a real shame that schools have had to become so security conscious. Can anyone think of any other measures that could be put in place to make my friend feel more comfortable?

What would your policy be in this sort of situation?



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It sounds to me as if they have very good policies and procedures normally. I guess the lesson to be learnt is that we should also review our procedures when something out of the ordinary is happening such as the events that you've described. In much the same way you might do a quick risk assessment for a trip you could do the same for days such as these - identifying possible areas where children and staff may be at risk. It seems an awful shame that we live our lives thinking of the worst things that could happen but prevention is better than the scenario your friend found herself in.

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hi Carol, thats a good point and I think it should certainly reassure my friend. In any risk assessment would you think a parent was going to threaten you with a knife? As I understand it no one was aware that this man had threatened the mother previously. The risk to the child was dealt with in that he was removed as policy dictated to a safe place.


I think that the school had put into place the risk assessments etc and they followed the policy when the risk occurred. My friend is very distressed by the situation and blames herself for not reacting better at the time, although as noone was physically hurt I don't think she should beat herself up too much. I'm sure it was a distressing and horrific incident for everyone but no blame can be attached to her in any way.


Perhaps they need to rethink how they are going to allow parents access next time?

I'm sure its a bind for the office but perhaps they need to sign in and out (the parents), then the man could have been refused entry. In our school, we have lobby in which we can " contain" the parents!! There is a hatch at which the office staff greet visitors.

I'll check with my friend to see what her main entrance arrangements are like.

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Hi Susan,

We have a similar arrangement at both our day nurseries, visitors are not allowed beyond the 'lobby' until they are cleared or can be accompanied into the building proper. There is a code on the inner door and this policy is RIGIDLY adhered to. And I do mean that! No one ever gets any flak for making someone wait if they are unknown to the staff member answering the door.


Have checked with old setting, no formal policies resulted from our distressing experience, although police advice on security at the time was followed as closely as possible - bullet-proof glass throughout was a bit difficult for a community building, and a tad over the top - possibly....? In the light of your friend's experience, however, they could do with reviewing the 'free access' at drop off and pick up time! Think I'll suggest it.



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Thanks for checking that out, Sue.


This happened at a parents afternoon and children are handed to parents, I believe, at the end of sessions. I guess you can never cover the eventually of the lunatic arriving but you have to be confident that you've minimised the risks.

I wonder if he would have confronted the mother, if he'd seen her?

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If he turned up at the school with a knife he obviously had the intention of using it otherwise why bring it? Maybe he was expecting to see the mother though rather than intending any harm to the staff. Not much comfort I know. :o

I think Sue that you're right that any procedures you have have to be stuck to rigidly. They're implemented for very good reasons and we should all remember that and not get complacent with how we work. I think it's a natural tendency for people to think these measures are over the top and start to flout them. It's certainly made me think about how inadequate our procedures are.

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hi CArol


this is certainly thought provoking.

I don't think there is any question that my friend failed to follow the proceedures and policy that her school has in place at this time.

She is feeling guilty that she may have made a mistake somewhere that allowed the situation to escalate or become out of control, but I think this is a reation to the trauma that she has experienced.

At the end of the day the child was removed andd is unharmed and although the staff are badly shaken and emotionally battered at this time they were not hurt physically either.


BUT are there other measures or precautions that could be implemeted in the light of this.

Several people have made some suggestions and she has returned to work today with them in mind.

We were hoping to get a feel through this forum of other settings policies.


I know we have had children in school for whom contact with the father has been withdrawnand we have always insisted on seeing the relevant paperwork. We have made alternative entry and exit arrangements for children so that they are within the building and secure when risk is high.

In this instance the mother had not told the school that she had been threatened and they had no reason to suppose they should do anything other than follow the said policy, if need dictated.


The Police suspect that he was waiting to confront the mother with the child but took advantage of the unusual circumstances that prevailed that day to enter the building.


Please if anybody has any other thoughts or suggestions we would still like to hear from you.

Many thanks to everyone!

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