A well-respected school lollipop lady has been suspended after allegedly ‘begging’ parents for money.
The headteacher of Poulton’s Carr Head Primary reported the school’s crossing patrol officer, Mary Smith, to council bosses after receiving several complaints from parents.
It is alleged Mrs Smith begged parents for money as she helped their children cross the road and that she also approached nearby elderly residents for cash.
It is understood she had been asking for money after running up debt.
Speaking outside her Grange Park home, Mrs Smith, said: “All the allegations about begging are true but I don’t want to talk about it – it’s embarrassing.”
She is said to have told parents she was financially struggling and needed the money to pay overdue bills.
After reporting Mrs Smith to County Hall, school headteacher Donna Sully sent out a text message to all parents explaining an investigation had been launched.
Mrs Sully said: “I have passed complaints to Lancashire County Council and I have every confidence they will look into the matter.
“As I am not the employer it would be wrong for me to comment further.”
Parents at the school told of their shock at the news, describing middle-aged Mrs Smith as well-liked and respected.
A mum-of-three, said: “This whole situation is unbelievable.
“Mary is great with the kids and a well-respected member of the school community.”
But one 90-year-old resident living close to the Carr Head Lane school claimed she had been asked for money on two occasions.
She said: “One day in February Mary asked me if she could borrow £10. She said she would return it on pay day which was meant to be a few days later but it never came.
“Then two weeks ago, she knocked on my door again and she asked me for another £10, but I had to say no. I had no idea she was asking other people for money too. I’m shocked she has been suspended.”
Other parents at the school backed the decision to investigate. Coral Brown, whose son attends the school, said: “I did receive a text message and thought it was strange.
“She has never asked me for money but I can see why those she has asked are angry.
“It’s shocking she has been suspended.”
A mother-of-three, who declined to be named, said: “When I received the text message I had no idea anything was going on. After speaking to other parents about what has happened I think it is right she has been suspended.
“If she’s been begging for money, she obviously hasn’t been concentrating on her job.”
Another dad said: “I had heard something about this.
“Someone I was speaking to on Friday said his mother had been approached twice. It’s not right is it?”
Another mother said: “She seems a really nice lady who takes a real interest in the children.”
Lancashire County Council which employs school crossing patrol staff across Lancashire, has launched an investigation into the claims after officially removing her from her post.
Yesterday, Mrs Smith’s duties were being carried out by a temporary lollipop man.
Roger Eakhurst, assistant director for Lancashire County Commercial Group, which manages the county council’s school crossing patrol services, said: “I can confirm that we have received complaints about a member of our crossing patrol staff.
“We will investigate the complaints fully and take any necessary appropriate action.
“I can confirm this member of staff is currently suspended from her school crossing patrol duties.”