A MOTHER is calling for three teachers to be suspended after her daughter and her classmates were subjected to a “cruel and unethical” Holocaust role play game.
Pupils at St Hilary’s Primary were “hysterical” after deputy head teacher Elizabeth McGlynn segregated nine youngsters in Gerry Blair’s P7 class and told them they were being taken away from their families.
It was the start of an ordeal designed to give the 11-year-old children an insight into the horrors of the Holocaust as part of a project they are doing about the Second World War.
But the ill-conceived exercise, which was sprung on the children first thing on Thursday morning, went badly-wrong and left pupils crying in fear.
And now a formal complaint has been made to South Lanarkshire Council against head teacher Patricia Stewart, deputy head Mrs McGlynn and teacher Mr Blair.
The furious mum told the News how her daughter came home from school on Thursday afternoon in a distressed state.
The girl said her classmates began crying when Mrs McGlynn told them she had a letter from the Scottish Government saying nine children had to be separated from their classmates.
She told the shocked youngsters those who were born in January, February and March had lower IQs than other children, ‘due to lack of sunlight in their mother’s womb’, and that they had to put yellow hats on and be sent to the library.
In a letter sent to Larry Forde, the council’s Executive Director of Education Resources, the mum states: “Mrs McGlynn told the children they would probably have to be sent away from their families and that their parents had been informed about this and knew all about it.
“When one child asked if that meant they might have to go to an orphanage, they were told that might be a possibility. At that point many of the children became very distressed. One boy kicked his chair over, one was angry and demanded to speak to someone in charge but most were crying on a scale ranging from mildly to severely.”
Their ordeal lasted between 12 and 15 minutes before the children were informed that it was all an act but that the role play would continue until lunchtime.
The mum contacted headteacher Mrs Stewart to ask if her daughter’s account was accurate.
She added: “When I asked why on earth they thought it was appropriate to deliver a role play situation to the children in this way, Mrs Stewart informed me that they didn't inform the children beforehand because they wanted the children to experience an ‘accurate emotional response’ to this scenario in order for it to be reflected in their story writing.
“Mrs Stewart then invited me to come up to the school and see the excellent work that had been produced as a result of the exercise. I declined and my position and opinion on the method used to extract emotive story writing from the children was cruel, barbaric, traumatic and totally, totally unethical.
“My daughter and indeed no child needs to feel the terror, fear, panic, segregation and horror that a child of the Holocaust experienced during one of the worst atrocities in history to be able to empathise with them in order to produce good story writing.”
East Kilbride MSP Andy Kerr said: “I have represented the concerns of parents to the council and I look forward to receiving the response. St Hilary’s is a very good school, as is recognised by parents, and hopefully this matter gets resolved quickly.”
A council spokeswoman, who confirmed that a role play activity took place, said: “Schools commonly engage in drama-based exercises which encourage children to use their imagination and act out a character. These role play situations are designed to help children understand diversity and develop empathy for the victims of prejudice and are usually very well received by pupils.
“We are sorry that the lesson had this affect on some pupils. We would urge any parent with concerns to contact the school.
“The council can confirm that a parent handed in a letter to Education Resources on Monday, March 8, 2010 and this will be responded to shortly.”
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