Banned: Teacher who threatened to break pupil's legs

Teacher who hit, pushed and threatened pupils with special educational needs is banned for a minimum of two years

Banned

A special school teacher who hit a pupil round the head with a window blind and threatened to break another child's legs has been banned from the profession.

Elaine Housley, a former teacher at Old Hall School in Walsall, also forced a pupil's fist into his mouth when he tried to bite her, a Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) panel found.

The misconduct, which took place at the special school between October 2016 and March 2017, spanned from "inappropriate physical contact" to "unacceptable comments".

Ms Housley denied every allegation lodged against her.

However, the panel found that, on one occasion, Ms Housley stood over one pupil while he was in his chair, and told him to “put your legs under the table before I break them'', or words to that effect.

It also found that she called another child "lazy" or a "big baby", and said, ''I want her to fall to the floor'', or words with a similar meaning, when she noticed a third pupil leaning back on a chair or stool.

On a separate occasion, Ms Housley was found to have hit or slapped a pupil on the legs after he threw food on the floor.

She allegedly claimed at the time that she "meant to move his legs but slapped them by accident", in a manner described by one witness as "defensive".

She was also found to have treated the same boy in a "vile" manner on a separate occasion, when she believed he intended to bite her.

A witness told the panel that the pupil would often move his head down, with his mouth open, towards a teacher or teaching assistant, as if to bite them, in order to gain a reaction.

On this occasion, the panel heard that Ms Housley reacted by taking the boy's hand and making it into a fist before forcing it towards his mouth. She allegedly said words to the effect of: "You bite yourself, you don’t bite me."

The witness said that she was so shocked by what she had seen that, when she got home, she was in tears. She said that it was this incident, over and above any other, which had convinced her that Ms Housley needed to be reported for her actions, which she later did.

On another occasion, Ms Housley was found to have hit a pupil over the head with part of a blind when he was misbehaving.

One witness recalled Ms Housley telling the boy to "stop it", before hitting him on the head with the bottom of the blind, which had a strip of plastic running along it. Ms Housley then allegedly said words to the effect of, "I've just hit him on the head three times, he won't do that again". 

Another witness said she overheard Ms Housley say something along the lines of: "A few hits on the head won't hurt him."

However, there was no evidence that the boy had been harmed, and the panel found that "the evidence appeared to indicate these were more taps than forceful hits".

Ms Housley accepted that there had been an incident involving the pupil and the blind in the classroom but denied any of her actions had been inappropriate.

She was also found to have pushed a child in the back; used one pupil's hand or arm to hit another child, and used two pupils' arms to wipe up water they had spilled – despite the fact that one of the children had an aversion to water due to his autism. 

Ms Housley was additionally accused of pulling a child up by the hood of his coat; rubbing alcohol gel into a cut on a pupil's face, and saying: ''I'd beat him black and blue if he was mine, I would have a wooden paddle for him."  However, these allegations were not proven.

While there was no evidence of any substantial physical harm being caused to any pupil by Ms Housley's actions, the panel found that her conduct did involve "inappropriate physical contact with vulnerable pupils, or making unacceptable comments to, or about, them over a lengthy period of time".

It added that, whilst the actions of Ms Housley were "undoubtedly inappropriate and inherently serious", they were also "towards the lower end of the seriousness spectrum that involved minimal contact with pupils".

There was no evidence that any long-term physical harm had been caused to pupils, although the panel did note that there was the potential for there to be an impact on the children's mental health.

It heard that Ms Housley was considered to be a "good" teacher, which was corroborated by live evidence from the school's headteacher at the time of the misconduct. The former head said they would send new teachers to observe Ms Housley's class to observe her behaviour management.

The panel added that it appeared the class of pupils "were more difficult to manage than Ms Housley had previously experienced" and, before the academic year 2016-17, there was no evidence of any complaints against her.

Taking all the evidence into account, the panel recommended that Ms Housley should be banned from the profession for a minimum of two years.

Its recommendations were upheld by Alan Meyrick, decision-maker on behalf of the secretary of state for education.

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