Outrage after school tells teen girls they can’t call in sick due to periods as it’s 'part of being a woman'
A school in Cowley, Oxford, sparked anger amidst students and parents after the head of the institution reportedly told female students that they were not allowed to call in sick because of period pain. Jackie Watson, in an email addressed to all Year 12 students at Oxford Spires Academy in Cowley, told them that periods are "part of being a woman." Reports state that the email was designed to cut back on non-attendance after girls in the school were calling in sick citing their periods.
The email reportedly told students that "learning to deal with monthly inconvenience is all part of being a woman". The email, however, backfired as students became enraged over its content with one anynomous student saying: "Obviously I have to understand that people cannot take their whole period off each month but that is not what anyone is trying to do. Personally, when I am on my period, I experience really painful cramps, meaning I cannot walk without having to be bent double. Sometimes, I get so dizzy I pass out or vomit – obviously on these days, I would not consider myself fit to go into school."
“The fact Dr Watson sent the email out to the whole of sixth form as well, including the boys, is just making boys think it isn’t bad and that they shouldn’t be sympathetic," the student added. "I am now quite uncomfortable to think of my next periods and how I will manage them at school, as I’m sure the majority of girls are," the Sun reported.
Watson's email to the students read: "Any female student asking to be sent home ‘ill’ or phoning in ‘ill’ who has a period will not find this is a suitable excuse. Learning to deal with monthly inconvenience is all part of being a woman, I’m afraid." It also urged students to not miss out on their education and reminded them that painkillers and heat packs were available on the premises.
Another student said: "Obviously as women, we must find ways of dealing with this, but occasionally, the pain is too much to handle. We understand the motive behind the email, and we don’t want to use our periods as a way to prevent our learning but we feel there is a lack of compassion for what girls experience each month."
Watson, however, emphasized that her email was not intended for the worst-case scenarios of menstrual cramps. She said: "Anywhere where you work you can’t take two days off for being on your period. If it’s just an ordinary period, you should come into school – unfortunately taking that time off is not how society works. The email is about attendance, that was simply the point – my slightly tongue-in-cheek way of saying it maybe got to some of the girls, but the email was to get across the message to be in school.”
Watson, after the immediate outrage, eventually admitted that it was a mistake, saying it was "foolish" of her to send it to boys too. "I do think they’re right to be upset about that [the email being sent to boys] and I probably shouldn’t have done that and perhaps it was a bit foolish of me,” she said.