A woman got a call from her daughter’s school.
Her daughter had committed an assault, and could she come in straight away.
She drove to the school and when she got there the headmaster, the form-teacher, her daughter, a boy, and his parents were all waiting.
The headmaster explained her daughter had committed an assault in class on this boy.
She’d punched him in the face.
The school and the parents were now considering serious action.
The mother was taken aback, she asked her daughter what had happened.
Her daughter said “He sits behind me and he kept pulling my bra strap. I told him to stop but he wouldn’t.
I told the form-teacher but he told me to ignore it.
Then the boy pulled my bra strap so hard it came undone.
So I turned around and punched him in the face.”
The headmaster frowned at the mother and daughter.
He said “So this is a clear case of assault”.
The mother said “It certainly is: sexual assault”.
Everyone stopped dead.
The headmaster said “But your daughter admits hitting him in the face”.
The mother said “Yes after he’d persistently committed a sexual assault, she’d asked for help from the form-teacher and been ignored, so she defended herself”.
The headmaster said “But she clearly over-reacted”.
The mother said “Okay, is it alright if I come over there and play with your fly, pull your zip up and down a few times? I’m sure the form-teacher will tell you to ignore it.”
The headmaster said nothing, he just blushed.
The mother said “Okay, how about if you go over to this boy’s mother and pull her bra-strap a few times while we watch. Don’t worry if she objects, the form-teacher will tell her to ignore it”.
The entire room was silent, everyone looked at the floor.
The mother said “What we have here is a case of sexual assault in the classroom. The school was complicit in it because the form-teacher allowed the assault to continue.
I agree with you, we do need to take serious action”.
And the mother and daughter got up and walked out.
She then reported everything to the board of governors.
And, just to make sure they didn’t ignore it, she reported it to OFSTED (the government’s Office for Standards in Education).
The boy has now been moved to another class while the school’s handling of the situation is being investigated.
What I like about that story is the way the mother turned the tables by getting upstream of the problem.
An assault in class is a serious thing.
The daughter had committed the assault, so she must be punished.
What the mother did was to look upstream at what caused the assault.
A sexual assault is a much more serious matter.
The young girl was forced to react because the people who should have protected her, the school, failed in their duty of care.
The mother turned the entire argument around by getting upstream of what everyone thought was a foregone conclusion.
It’s a great lesson for us all in the communication business.
A lesson in managing entrenched opinion in any market.
Don’t face it head-on, get upstream and change the context.
As Buckminster Fuller said “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”.