A COUNCIL is spending thousands of pounds on ‘mediation’ sessions between warring staff and parents at a Scottish high school hit by a rape row.
Berwickshire High hit the headlines last year when school chief Rob Kelly suggested female pupils’ dress standards could result in them being raped.
Teachers at the school blame members of the parent council for the resulting media storm and are refusing to speak to them.
Scottish Borders Council has responded to the extraordinary crisis by bringing in a private mediation firm to try to get the two sides to talk to each other.
More than £6,000 has been spent on the talks in the past six months and council chiefs insist more taxpayers’ cash will have to be forked out to reach a peace deal.
The mediation sessions were today (thur) branded ‘crazy’ by critics.
The controversy started after an assembly where Mr Kelly, rector of the school near Duns, warned girls about inappropriate clothing.
He highlighted a TV advert by Rape Crisis Scotland as evidence of the effect skimpy clothing could have on men.
Speaking to an all-girl assembly in September last year, he warned the pupils to stop dressing “provocatively”, saying skimpy clothing could encourage “inappropriate thoughts’ among boys”.
But Rape Crisis accused Mr Kelly, who faced calls for his resignation from the parent council, of misunderstanding their message.
A spokeswoman said at the time: “We think it is clear that the advert is saying exactly the opposite: That no matter what a woman wears, she is never responsible for rape.
“We are disturbed at our advert being used to support this.”
It has now emerged that shortly teachers decided to boycott Parent Council meetings because “certain individuals…attracted negative publicity on the basis of misinformation”.
Education bosses then decided to bring in Edinburgh-based Core Solutions to try to sort out the row.
The firm has so far been paid £6,500 to mediate between the warring factions – with little sign so far of the row being resolved.
Local councillor Nicholas Watson said: “How can paying over £6,500 to Core Solutions be justified?
He added: “Three things about this seem extraordinary; first , that senior school staff should not be able to work with the parent council.
“Second, that such an expensive way out was chosen.
“And perhaps worst of all, despite this lack of progress, the council carried on using these consultants for over six months. How crazy is that?”
Rector Rob Kelly did not give an answer as to whether the two sides had resolved their differences.
He said: “It’s being dealt with at the highest level so I don’t think I can comment.”
A council statement said: “Core Solutions and centrally-based education managers have been working constructively together with parents and school staff to resolve a breakdown in communications.
The council said there had been ‘significant progress’ in resolving the situation, but said it needed an ‘extended timescale’ in order to resolve the situation.
Edinburgh council were slated earlier this year for bringing in a £3,000-a-day mediator to deal with its dispute with German tram-building firm Bilfinger Berger.