The Union of Professional Educators (UPE) has confirmed it will file police reports against a number of Facebook commenters who said they would have acted violently against an LSA at the centre of a recent controversy.
The comments were written after Sefora Tabone uploaded an emotional video to social media in which she said that her four-year-old son Diego, who has autism, was mishandled by the LSA at his Breakfast Club, a government-run programme that allows parents to drop off their children at school early before going to work.
UPE President Graham Sansone showed several comments to Lovin Malta but did not confirm exactly which ones will end up in the hands of the police
However, some of the comments, many of which were from mothers, were particularly nasty, saying they would have punched the LSA in the face, dragged her by the hair through the corridor, knocked her teeth out and broke her fingers had they been in Sefora’s place.
One also called for a law to be passed that will allow mothers to take the law into their own hands in such cases
“The UPE has zero tolerance towards the incitement of violence towards educators and the comments clearly show the attitude a small section of the general public has,” Sansone told Lovin Malta. “The UPE will continue insisting that The Education Ministry safeguards its educators by making sure that security personnel are in every school.”
“UPE is the guardian of educators and will take the necessary steps to report any incitement of violence to the competent authorities as it has done in the past.”
He clarified that the UPE was not complaining about Sefora’s video but about certain Facebook comments that followed
In the video, Sefora Tabone said she had dropped off her son off at school last Friday but remained at the building after she got caught up in a conversation with a friend. She said she heard screams and shouts, went inside the classroom and saw that her son was at the centre of the commotion.
“I saw him sitting on a chair in the corner having a time-out, which is fine, but he was crying and gasping for breath while the LSA who was taking care of him was bellowing at him with her fingers in his face,” she said. “Instead of calming him, she was shouting, causing him to throw things on the floor and shout even more.”
Sefora took her son out of the classroom to calm him down and when the LSA followed her, she told her that her behaviour wasn’t the way to address Diego’s issues. However, she said the LSA replied that she was the one with more experience.
Sefora flagged the incident to the headmistress but, when she took Diego to the Breakfast Club the following Monday, she was shocked to find a chair in the middle of the corridor saying ‘no parents beyond this point’. Shocked at what she saw as a move to deny parents the right to see how their children are treated in class, Sefora removed Diego from the Breakfast Club.
After the video went viral on social media, Sefora clarified that she didn’t speak out to point fingers at the LSA but to criticise the way the school authorities had handled the situation. She also condemned the vicious comments that were aired against the LSA.
The Malta Union of Teacher (MUT) has vehemently denied that the LSA had mistreated Diego, insisting she had reacted in a professional manner in circumstances where the child could have hurt others, as well as the LSA or even himself. The union added that no adult, including parents or legal guardians, are allowed to enter a school without permission.