The day my life changed - The police rang

8th April 2011 at 01:00
The school had made a complaint against me. I was guilty of assault

Chris* was belligerent and disrespectful. Not the worst child in the world, but in the mildest terms, he was completely unco-operative.

It was Thursday afternoon and I was trying to talk to him about something as the class was leaving, when he pushed me a few times to get out of his way. He was furious. I instructed him to go to the headteacher and he just refused, so I said, "Very well, I'll take you" and took his arm. The entire incident of me holding him was about six seconds on the CCTV footage. What happened was that he yanked himself away, told me to F-off and then pushed other children out of the way.

I went straight to the deputy head and told him what had happened. I was clearly more upset than I thought. I was trembling and on the point of tears, and I was told in no uncertain terms to go home.

At that point, I wasn't too downhearted. I thought there would be an inquiry within the school and it would be sorted out. But the day after, I got a call from a police officer who told me the school had made a complaint against me. I was utterly devastated. I kept saying: "What?" And I couldn't stop crying.

I went to the police station a few days later with a solicitor who had been sent by the union. She told me I was guilty of assault under the law, and I believed her.

We were taken into a cell and I was questioned for about four hours. It just went on and on. The officers were very aggressive. They were trying to put words in my mouth and kept asking me if I regretted it. They were trying to get me to say I was angry - that was why I followed him. But I wasn't. I'm a teacher and I was doing my job.

All the way through, I just wanted to tell the truth. I was advised by the solicitor to accept a caution and I left the station completely devastated.

A few weeks later, I attended a meeting with my union rep at the school. The headteacher was there. Because I accepted the caution under Section 39 (common assault), I was formally suspended for gross misconduct, pending enquiries. And off I went.

I felt absolutely beaten and diminished, but I knew I hadn't done anything wrong. I began to investigate my rights and had the CCTV footage analysed by an expert to show exactly who the aggressor was.

I realised that if I wanted to teach again, I would have to have the caution overturned, so I started making waves. I would have refused to sign the caution - because it was effectively my resignation - but I thought that was the law and that I had no choice. I was never offered the defence I was entitled to. Under the Education and Inspections Act 2006, you can use reasonable force to maintain discipline and order.

After about six months, the chief superintendent formally rescinded my caution and had it expunged from all records, which I'm told is very unusual. I was elated. I was also told the school would lift my suspension and that I could return to work. You can't imagine how delighted I was. It was an enormous relief.

I left school in October and it was now almost Easter, but I thought, "I'll go in for the last few days." My colleagues were just wonderful. I was utterly moved by their kindness. I felt like visiting royalty.

But it took a herculean effort to walk through that corridor. It was full of children, and you could see them all looking at me. I just thought, "Keep the face on. It's business as usual. You're back."

As told to Meabh Ritchie.

*Name has been changed.

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