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First Minister condemns ‘degrading’ WhatsApp messages from Aberdeenshire teachers

The First Minister said anyone who degrades disabled pupils deserve "utter condemnation."
The First Minister said anyone who degrades disabled pupils deserve "utter condemnation."

Nicola Sturgeon has stepped into a row about Aberdeenshire teachers who reportedly sent “degrading” Whatsapp messages about ASN pupils.

Several teachers at Aberdeenshire schools reportedly exchanged messages referring to primary school pupils with additional support needs (ASN).

The First Minister said that anyone writing messages about children with disabilities deserves “utter condemnation”.

In parliament, she was asked to urge Aberdeenshire Council to share more information with parents about the incident.

Ms Sturgeon said that she hoped the council listens to parents who want to know more about the situation.

Parents push for transparency

North East Conservative MP Douglas Lumsden brought the issue to the floor of Parliament on Thursday.

He asked if Ms Sturgeon supported parents’ calls for the council to shed more light on the situation.

“The parents of the pupils involved have asked for greater transparency on what was shared, but so far they have had nothing.

“Will the First Minister join me in condemning that behaviour? Will she do everything that she can to ensure that the parents of the children involved have full access to the messages and that the council does not simply brush the matter under the carpet?”

‘Utter condemnation’ for anyone sending degrading messages

Ms Sturgeon was quick to denounce the teachers’ actions.

“First, let me take the opportunity to say that anyone who sends degrading messages about children with disabilities deserves utter condemnation. That is completely unacceptable and I completely understand the concerns of the parents and young people concerned.

She said it was the council’s responsibility to deal with the teachers and parents involved.

She added: “However, I understand the desire of parents for full transparency, and I hope that the council will take full note of that.”

‘Unprofessional, abusive and degrading’

Earlier this week, it was revealed that teachers at unnamed Aberdeenshire schools had sent Whatsapp messages to one another in 2018 that disparaged students with additional support needs.

The council did not notify parents at the time and has not released information on the teachers involved.

In November, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner flagged the issue to the council. The commissioner’s letter said the messages contained “unprofessional, abusive and degrading references to children with additional support needs.”

After news broke about the messages, a council spokeswoman said that an independent review upheld the council’s response. She added that the council did not notify parents at the time because they did not find the children to be in danger.

When asked about Ms Sturgeon’s remarks, a spokeswoman for the council said: “Appropriate HR processes were followed at the time, including guidance and training.

“After the matter was raised by the Commissioner, we also commissioned a review of our processes by an independent Child Protection Committee chair – confirming everything was dealt with appropriately.

“We await a final report being sent to us.”

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