Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 23 Apr 2009

One of my pupils seems to have signs of abuse but she comes from a good family where this would be unbelievable.

Hillary's Advice

You have written in asking what to do, but you know what to do. All teachers know what to do under these circumstances. The procedures in relation to suspected child abuse are very precisely and clearly set out.
What you are asking for is permission to believe what your eyes are telling you. But leave the question of the pupil’s family aside, and think about it. You say the girl has some signs of physical abuse. You don’t say what these are, but they must be more than the occasional bumped knee to have attracted your attention. You also say she is vague about how she got these marks and bruises, and that she is sometimes ‘dreamy’ in class. Something is clearly not right there, and you know it. It may be that someone is doing something nasty to her at home and the dreaminess is her way of protectively disassociating herself from it. Or there may be some other problem she is dealing with. There could even be a totally innocent explanation for it all.
But despite your understandable reluctance to start pointing a finger at a family that sounds like the very model of civic propriety you must raise your concerns with your school’s designated child protection officer immediately. Plenty of horrible things happen behind respectable front doors. Not all cases of child abuse occur in fractured and chaotic families, and your job is to protect your pupil, not the reputation of her parents, however high their standing might be in the community.