A SCHOOL has called in police to investigate a foul-mouthed petition set up by a student vilifying one of his teachers.

A number of pupils have been excluded from Patcham High School in Brighton after the petition went live Thursday night and resulted in a torrent of abuse aimed at its deputy headteacher Penny Denman.

The comments left on the online poll, which The Argus has decided not to print, were so vile it prompted the school to contact Sussex Police.

The hate campaign was set up to try to block the deputy from taking over as head after Paula Sargent announced she would resign at the end of the year.

The petition had nearly 400 signatures as The Argus went to press.

Mrs Sargent said: “Many students had responded to this petition with offensive remarks which were utterly disgraceful and unacceptable, many under assumed names or aliases.

“On Friday morning the school took the swiftest and strongest possible action.

“The matter was referred immediately to the police and the local authority and we began our own internal investigation.

“We quickly identified the author of the petition, he has been excluded from school for a fixed term and we are in the process of organising the petition’s removal from the host website in the USA.

“Those students who posted offensive comments have also been interviewed, their parents informed and exclusions applied.”

It is not clear at this stage how many students have been excluded or whether or not they will be permanent, but The Argus identified at least two posters who were current students at the Ladies Mile Road school.

One ex pupil, who boasted about being unemployed on his Facebook profile, shared the petition online and called on students to strike.

Mrs Sargent added: “Our parents have been tremendously supportive of the action taken and I am very grateful to them for helping us to reinforce the message that such behaviour is totally unacceptable.

“Freedom of speech is one thing, and we welcome students expressing their views, but we will not tolerate any student using such a platform to overstep the mark into offensive and damaging personal comments against our staff.

“I think a salutary lesson has been learned by many students today.

“They don’t always think about the consequences of what they write on their computers from the comfort of their bedrooms and the lasting and damaging effect it can have.

“If there is any good to come out of this whole sorry affair, it is that I believe students are more likely to think twice about it in the future.”

Many posters complained about Mrs Denman’s tendency to pick them up on uniform, especially for wearing white socks.

Paul Shellard, of Brighton and Hove’s National Union of Teachers branch, said: “Our position is that where students or parents post material that is offensive to staff on social media sites, then this should be dealt with as a serious matter within the school and appropriate sanctions applied.”

A Sussex Police spokesman said they were contacted about the petition yesterday and will be assessing the situation to see what action needs to be taken.