A MOTHER has accused a school truancy team of treating her like a criminal while she was out shopping with her 10-year-old daughter at Fleet.
Company director Karen Silvester has protested to Hampshire County Council at the "appalling way" she was accosted by the two education welfare officers, who were on a random search for truants.
She alleged that the women officers, who were accompanied by a policewoman, almost charged up to her as she left Waitrose in the Hart shopping centre.
"They didn't introduce themselves or show me any identification," said Mrs Silvester, of Nursery Close, Fleet. "Their unfriendly demeanour left many people queuing for the lift, and leaving the supermarket, with the undoubted impression that I was a suspected shoplifter."
In fact her initial reaction was that she was being stopped because she had perhaps forgotten to pay for an item in the supermarket. "I felt sick," she said.
The education welfare officers went on to ask Mrs Silvester a string of questions including why her daughter, Emma, was not at school. "I was embarrassed beyond belief," she said last Friday. "I felt I'd been put in the category of a mother who couldn't care less about her child's education."
She said her daughter had an excellent attendance record, and was only off school that day because she had a dreadful cough. "Thanks to what happened, Emma was worried that she would be in trouble at school," said Mrs Silvester.
In her letter to county education chief Andrew Seber, she has asked for an explanation as to why the welfare officers didn't show "respect and tact" when they stopped her. She also wants to know why the job can't be done by one officer, and why a police officer needs to be in attendance.
"Surely the police should be concentrating on crime, which is rising in our community," she said.
The Star asked Hampshire County Council for a detailed reply, but received only a short, bland statement from its principal education welfare officer, John Heath. He said the council had a duty to promote the regular and punctual attendance of pupils at school.
"Fulfilling that duty operates (sic) truancy sweeps under the Crime and Disorder Acts 1998," his statement continued. "Educational welfare officers work with police officers and are professional people and (sic) who conduct themselves in a professional manner."
He added that any complaint would be fully investigated.
COMMENT BY ALAN FRANKLIN
This thoughtless, arrogant behaviour is typical of what we have come to expect of Hampshire County Council, a basically useless organisation run in part by people who couldn't give a hoot what ordinary folk in this area think - witness their refusal to remove the idiotic chicanes - the Stock-ades - in Elvetham Road, Fleet.
The fact that their education welfare officer sends out a brief statement containing two mistakes just about sums them up.