Banned from school for having an eating disorder

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Anorexic teen banned from school

16-year-old British girl Lottie Twiselton is allegedly banned from her school because she is a recovering anorexic.

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When you hear about a teenage girl getting kicked out of school you’d probably think that she’d trashed the principal’s office or repeatedly dealt drugs out of her locker. At the very least she’d have tagged the toilet block.

But this wasn’t the case for 16-year-old British girl Lottie Twiselton who has allegedly been excluded from her school because she’s recovering from anorexia.

Lottie Twiselton.

Lottie Twiselton. Photo: Facebook

After being discharged from hospital, Lottie had hoped to return to Northampton High School on a part-time basis until she fully regained her strength. But her school administration said she wasn’t welcome to return until she had made a full recovery.

Lottie, who had attended the school since she was three years old, told London’s Mirror newspaper, "I felt abandoned. Nobody can understand how important the return to school is when you’re in recovery."

Her father Robert Twiselton was scathing of the school’s decision saying, "People suffering from anorexia are encouraged to work towards a goal and Lottie was working towards getting back to school to be with her friends. This was taken away from her."

Lottie Twiselton.

Lottie Twiselton. Photo: Faceook

Lottie’s mother Claire Twiselton says that Lottie was banned from returning because the school feared her daughter would be a bad influence on her peers and inspire copycat eating disorders.

"I think they were worried that Lottie's behaviour... may have resulted in other girls wanting to follow that path — clearly not understanding that anorexia isn't a decision," she told BBC Radio 5 Live's Victoria Derbyshire. 

A statement issued by the school and reported in the Daily Mail denies that Lottie was excluded because of her eating disorder.

"The health and wellbeing of our pupils is at the heart of everything we do... The professional view of the head and her team was that an interrupted part-time programme in a crucial year would not be in the interests of Lottie’s welfare or education."

Not surprisingly, the Twiselton family is not buying the school’s concern about the continuity of Lottie’s studies as the reason for excluding her. If returning to school is deemed to be helpful for Lottie’s recovery by her carers, then you'd think the school would be supportive — especially a school that claims to be interested in Lottie’s welfare.

Sarah McMahon, psychologist and Director of BodyMatters Australasia says that the actions of the school could be damaging to Lottie’s recovery, especially if her treatment team have deemed her well enough to return to school.

At the same time, McMahon acknowledges that the school is in a very difficult position in terms of duty of care.

"The role of the school is primarily education and not treatment. It’s really important to make that distinction clear,’ says McMahon. ‘Sometimes families get confused about the distinction and think that the school will provide supervision of lunchtime meals for example."

But it’s hard to imagine the school taking the same approach for students who have a physical illness or injury instead of a mental one — such as kids going through chemotherapy, or those suffering chronic fatigue, or are seriously injured and require on-going rehabilitation.

Would those students be kicked out for only being able to attend part-time? And what about students who miss large chunks of the term because they go on extended holidays with their parents or tag along on a business trip? Why aren’t they excluded too?

Sarah Spence, National Manager Communications from the Butterfly Foundation says that schools should be aware of copycat behaviour for eating disorders, but simply dismissing a student recovering from anorexia isn’t the best approach.

"It is a very real and legitimate concern that schools may have around thinspiration, particularly from thinspo websites and other social media. It’s constantly in our culture and it’s what young people are looking at and reading. But that concern needs to be addressed in the appropriate way," Spence said.

"Eating disorders are a really complex mental illness and something that schools need to treat carefully and with a lot of sympathy — not only for the person going through it, but also for the family and loved ones as well."

"Schools should seek a lot of guidance before they make sweeping decisions like what has happened at this school."

To avoid situations like this, psychologist Sarah McMahon says it’s important that schools think carefully about their policy for students returning to school with illnesses such as anorexia.

"Schools need to make their policy clear to the treatment team and the family before the student reaches the expectation that they can return to school before they are well enough to do so," she said.

 

For help and support call 1800 334 673 or email support@thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

 

For 24 hour help call LIFELINE 13 11 14.

 

Kasey Edwards is a best-selling author and writer. www.kaseyedwards.com

 

 

11 comments so far

  • Schools rarely actually put their students first despite their duty of care - they are far more concerned about putting their own interests first and not being sued. As a lawyer I have been involved in several cases where the victims of serious bullying have been advised they should change school rather than tackle the bully. The only way to deal with it is to take on the schools.

    Commenter
    the Truth
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    March 14, 2014, 9:45AM
    • What nonsense. Teachers, principals and welfare teams care deeply about students. However some parents think the school is an outsourced child rearing facility. Wrong. There is plenty the school can do to help a student, but parents and doctors should be realistic and remember that 100% one-on-one personalised care is not usually possible in a mainstream school.

      You might have seen some hard done by students. But your assertion that schools rarely put student care first is simplistic reasoning for a lawyer.

      Commenter
      Realistic parent
      Location
      Public school
      Date and time
      March 14, 2014, 1:12PM
  • Our experience couldn't be more different. My daughter is in year 12 and after spending time in hospital being treated for anorexia her school was very supportive of her coming back part time and completing year 12 over 2 years. All the teachers have been very supportive and understanding. This means we can successfully maintain the family based treatment part of the Maudsley method the Doctor prescribed which involves supervising her eating and she can also keep up with her studies and stay in touch with her friends.

    Commenter
    Anne
    Location
    Adelaide
    Date and time
    March 14, 2014, 9:50AM
    • This is awful. This school had a very real opportunity to educate the other young women and men at this school on the dangers of eating disorders and they completely effed it up.

      All of the students should have been given briefings on the dangers of eating disorders and advice on how to treat this girl upon her return to school in order to make it a better environment for everyone.

      What a missed opportunity.

      Commenter
      Adrian
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 14, 2014, 10:06AM
      • Your suggestion that students be"briefed on the dangers of eating disorders" suggests that a person 'catches' this disease and could avoid doing so by being more aware. Not true. Your further suggestion that other students be "given briefings on the dangers of eating disorders and advice on how to treat this girl upon her return to school" while well meaning would make a spectacle of the student involved and would also be an invasion of her privacy. You need to consider that students would not want such information to be made public.

        Commenter
        teacher
        Location
        Melb
        Date and time
        March 14, 2014, 5:58PM
    • keep her away because she's still contagious?

      or use her to vaccinate the others?

      tricky!

      Commenter
      kitty
      Date and time
      March 14, 2014, 10:55AM
      • The schools today have to have an almost like hospital routine with the amount of medication needed to be given out by teachers.
        Taking responsibility for an obviously fragile girl has prompted the school to asses the situation their way.
        Just because you want it, doesn't mean in life the school of hard knocks is the one you ending up attending.

        Commenter
        Realist
        Location
        Melb
        Date and time
        March 14, 2014, 12:08PM
        • Worth mentioning that the school has absolutely denied that she was banned for having anorexia, so the DL headline is slightly sensationalist. The school maintains that they believe she's better off waiting until she's well enough to return full time.

          Perhaps it's worth asking them why this is the case, instead of jumping to blame the school for insensitivity or ignorance.

          In cases like this it's also a glaring red flag when no-one discusses the medical opinion.

          I respectfully suggest there is more to this story than this column indicates.

          Commenter
          Shane
          Date and time
          March 14, 2014, 1:13PM
          • Full time or nothing is not 'support and integration' by any interpretation of the words.

            Commenter
            Kate
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            March 14, 2014, 6:08PM
            • Anorexia is a psychological disorder and as such traumatic events can actually make things worse.
              There are only two valid reasons for not allowing her back to school, either she is of poor health and the school cannot look after her properly and may have liabilities issues, or she is actively encouraging other girls to do the same things she has been doing. Neither of which appears to be the case in this instance.
              Therefore the School faces the possibility of a massive discrimination suit for not allowing her back without valid reason. If I were her, it'd be "See you in court and bring your cheque book"

              Commenter
              Anonymous
              Location
              Brisbane
              Date and time
              March 15, 2014, 9:13AM

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