School staff stopped us taking our girl home: Parents' anger at 'heavy handed' tactics over rumour

A COUPLE were stopped from taking their seven-year-old daughter home from school by social workers because of a playground rumour.

• Debra andThomas Tweedie with their daughter Louise

Thomas Tweedie, 39, and wife Debra, 44, were quizzed after a teacher overheard their daughter Louise telling a friend that her dad had "beaten up" her mum.

The teacher contacted social workers and Louise was held at Lawfield Primary School in Dalkeith while an investigation was launched.

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The couple said the allegations were completely unfounded and hit out at the "heavy handed" tactics used.

The leader of Midlothian Council's social work department, however, backed his staff, saying their actions were "swift and proper" and insisting their procedures could help prevent another shocking case such as that of Baby P.

Social workers were sent to the family home after being contacted by the school last week.

Mr Tweedie said: "They told us we weren't going to be allowed to take our daughter home from school.

"I had visions of the bairn spending the night in a home because of this. The wife was in tears thinking we wouldn't get our daughter back.

"I just don't understand how they can do that with no evidence."

Despite schools closing early last Wednesday due to bad weather, Louise was kept in school while the probe continued.

After social workers left the couple's house they went to the school to try to collect their daughter. But they were not allowed to see Louise until social workers had finally contacted the school to say she could go home with her mother at around 3:30pm.

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Mrs Tweedie said: "When I got to pick her up she just said 'why were you late mummy?'.

"She has been very upset. She's broken down about it twice."

Mr Tweedie added: "Fair enough they've got to do their job but it's a bit heavy handed.

"It wouldn't be as bad if the school had called us up for a meeting but they went straight in with both feet.

"It's just the way they (social workers] acted when they came in – it was like an interrogation."

Following interviews with the couple and Louise, and a background check, the case was closed.

Colin Anderson, the council's director of social work, backed the way the incident was handled, and said it proved that their procedures worked.

"I want to reassure the public, particularly the most vulnerable people out there, that the procedures we have in place to protect them do work," he said.

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"Whilst I appreciate that it can be very difficult for people caught up in the early phase of an investigation, these procedures are in place to stop another case like the tragedy of Baby P, and I will not apologise for that.

Baby P, later identified as Peter Connelly, was just 17 months old when he died in August 2007 at the hands of his mother, her lover, and their lodger. He had fractured ribs and a broken back among 50 injuries.

Mr Anderson added: "I think this is a good example of how the procedures are being followed.

"There is a well-documented link between domestic violence and child abuse, and the teacher concerned was clearly well aware of the correct procedure, which is to report any concerns immediately so they can be followed up.

"This was a swift and proper response."