13/09/2012 08:38 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Council Apologises After Telling Schoolboy He Would 'Have To Work Harder In Life' Because He's Black

Council apologises after telling schoolboy he would 'have to work harder in life' because he's black SWNS

A council has apologised to a mother after her son was told by a truancy officer he would have to 'work harder in life' because of the colour of his skin.

Hertfordshire County Council has launched an investation after Rosamaria Failla complained about the comments to her 11-year-old son Sonny Lewis-Failla.

The incident happened after the boy had missed several days from Bowmansgreen School in St. Albans because he suffers from behavioural disorder ADHD.

A truancy officer visited the family and, according to Rosamaria, said to him: "Because you are not a white British boy, you are going to have to work harder in life to gain people's respect and to achieve things."

Rosamaria, 34, told her local paper: "I am upset and was absolutely gob-smacked at the time. The comment was ridiculous and I am confused as to why she would say something like that.

"It was highly offensive and clearly racist. "Sonny was born in Britain and his skin colour should make no difference.

Council apologises after telling schoolboy he would 'have to work harder in life' because he's black SWNS

"After the meeting, Sonny didn't say much but you could see in the way he acted the comment had really got to him and he was clearly upset.


It has become clear to me there is no racial equality within the council and it is of great concern to me that adequate training is not being provided to those who will be, and are, involved in my son's future."


Sonny's grandparents on his father's side are from Grenada, in the Caribbean. The truancy officer has since sent a letter of apology to Rosamaria and Sonny.

In the letter she writes: "I am sorry for any hurt or upset that I caused to Sonny or yourself in conversation at this visit.

"This was not in any way intentional and I was concerned to hear that you felt that this was the case.

"I acknowledge that the comment I made may have not been helpful and I regret any negative impact it may have had."

Sonny has now started secondary school at Verulam School.

A letter to Rosamaria from Justin Donovan, director of children's services, said: "I understand the officer is very upset that you found her comments offensive and she has written to apologise to you.

"Nevertheless she clearly should not have made the comment she did and I understand why you are so concerned."

Hertfordshire County Council said it would be investigating. A spokesman from the county council said: "We take any such allegations extremely seriously and will be conducting a full and thorough investigation."