WHEN 14-YEAR-OLD Bethan was prevented from going on a school trip following an incident in school, her mother, UWTSD Student Union President Abi Jenkins was horrified to find out that Ysgol Bro Pedr, Lampeter, had taken its decision without hearing Bethan’s side of the story.
Abi told us: “Just before the end of term, I called the school to ask them if there was still a place for the children on the trip to Oakwood. They came back and said that there was a place for Iwan but not for Bethan due to an incident the previous week.
“Bethanhadn’tmentionedanything to me and so I asked her about it.”
Bethan told her mother that the previous week, a boy at school had repeatedly suggested that a girl’s place was at home or in the kitchen and that was where she should be. In response to persistent goading, Bethan finally told the boy where to go and what to do when he got there.
Abi said: “She was reluctant to tell me because she knows she shouldn’t have sworn however she was also confused.
“Working with the Students’ Union, I have spent a lot of time raising the profile of women, fighting inequality, researching barriers to progression etc. I have always taught the children that it is absolutely wrong to discriminate against or insult people on the basis of their gender, sexuality or race.”
Abi explained: “Bethan told me that she felt that this message was completely contradictory to that given by the school and she asked me why swearing is worse than making derogatory comments to someone because of their gender.
“My response to her is that it isn’t and I was furious to hear that she had spent a day in isolation, and had been banned from the trip while the boy and his friends had not even been disciplined.”
Abi’s response was to take Bethan, her siblings and friends to Oakwood on the day Ysgol Bro Pedr went there. She told us: “Bethan knows it was wrong to swear and was punished for it, but I will not stand for injustice. I made it very clear that I was not taking Bethan to Oakwood because her behaviour was okay, but because the other child’s behaviour wasn’t and he was still going.”
When Abi contacted the school, she says that she was told that it was unaware of Bethan’s side of the story. Abi was then told there had been a repeat of the incident the day before the Oakwood trip, that the school was taking it seriously, and would be dealing with it in September. The boy concerned was, however, still going on the trip.
On the trip to Oakwood Abi and her daughter wore tee shirts spelling out their feelings about the situation: “I don’t regret using a censored expletive on the T-shirts because I did it for impact and it worked. There are now hundreds of people discussing the problem of sexism in schools.”
Reflecting on her personal experiences at University as a student and a student officer, Abi said: “In the higher education sector we talk a lot about how we can effectively tackle lad culture.
“However this just goes to show that lad culture is not something that is bred in sports teams at university but in the playground and classrooms of our schools. I put no blame on the child that made the comments, my anger is directed straight at the school who I believe have a duty to educate our children on the values of respect and equality.”
She concluded: “In my view Bro Pedr has demonstrated that instead, they have rules in place to stop swearing but are doing nothing to deal with the more serious issues that are likely to impact on our children’s lives as they grow older.”