Hawick High School is now a safe place for pupils and staff, according to Scottish Borders Council leader Shona Haslam.
That assurance was given after a question about the safety of the Buccleuch Road school led to a heated exchange at last Thursday’s full meeting of the council.
Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer asked for reassurance from education chiefs that the high school is safe and secure for returning pupils, following a rise in unruly behaviour.
Last year, anti-social and threatening behaviour by some pupils worsened to the extent that the council was forced to call in the police to patrol the corridors of the school.
Education bosses also sent some unruly pupils to do work experience in primary schools and drafted in four new youth workers and a deputy headteacher to stem the tide of anti-social behaviour.
Mr McAteer called on Mrs Haslam to give reassure pupils and parents, saying: “In the months prior to this year’s summer holidays, Hawick High School suffered disruption from a small group of persistently unruly children.
“Their actions impacted on pupils and teachers and resulted in wide-scale public concern.
“Can the executive assure colleagues, parents and, most importantly, the children who have returned for the new school term that these problems are now resolved and that they will be able to study in a safe, secure and fully-staffed learning environment?”
Tweeddale East councillor Haslam responded angrily, accusing councillor Mr McAteer of exploiting the situation for political gain, saying: “None of us should be under any misapprehension about the nature and intent of this question.
“It is an unashamed attempt by the member to stoke fear in the school and the community for his own narrow political purposes.
“This is utterly reprehensible, and it is not a situation which we in the chamber should countenance again.
“If the member is truly concerned for the interests of the residents he represents, then let him approach me with issues directly and I and the service directors will work with him and others to develop a collective approach to issues which arise.
“If, on the other hand, the member persists in fear-mongering for petty political gain, then he shames not only himself but this chamber and does a gross disservice to the ward he is supposed to represent.
“Working with partners, Hawick High School has put in place a range of support to respond to the needs of a small group of students, as well as implementing an authoritative school ethos inclusive of all.
“This school has a range of new staff, both teaching and non-teaching, and both home economics and fashion and textiles have been reinstated.”
In response, Mr McAteer said he was echoing the concerns of the residents of Hawick and, as an independent, he had a duty to challenge the administration, telling her: “I am representing a community and that community has asked me to ask this chamber when will it be safe for pupils at Hawick High School?
“I only echo what these people have asked me to do and, as an independent councillor, I will continue to do that, so my question is quite simple – can you assure those people in Hawick that the school will be safe and secure for pupils and teachers?”
Mrs Haslam replied: “Councillor McAteer, you should know better and, quite frankly, you do know better.
“This school is a safe school, and that is the message that local members should be putting out to their wards.
“These are children, our most vulnerable children, who have gone through things that we could never even imagine.
“They are victims of their circumstances. They don’t just become troubled.
“We need to put in scaffolding around them. We need to work with the schools, their families, their communities, to build that scaffolding so that they can climb out of wherever they are.
“Stop stressing the negatives and pretending you’re actually addressing the issue. Be a leader and stand up and start telling people what a fantastic place Hawick is and how fantastic its young people are.”