Pupil gets just two months for assault

12th September 2003 at 01:00
Teacher punched by teenager says magistrates' sentence is not tough enough. Adi Bloom reports

A teacher who was punched twice on the jaw by a 14-year-old pupil has criticised magistrates who sentenced the boy to just two months'


The teenager was found guilty of assault, harassment and actual bodily harm after attacking two teachers, knocking one unconscious.

Magistrates also ordered him to do two months' community service.

The attack occurred when the pupil insisted on returning to Cathays comprehensive, in Cardiff, after being permanently excluded for violence and misbehaviour.

Sohail Gachi, a maths teacher at the school, was punched twice on the jaw as he tried to remove the boy from school premises.

Mr Gachi believes the length of the sentence meted out by Cardiff magistrates will not deter disruptive pupils. He said: "Is two months in custody really a strong deterrent? A strong message has to be given out to pupils like this.

"I feel more vulnerable now. I wonder how far we have to go as professionals. At what point can we retaliate and defend ourselves?"

The 26-year-old fears other pupils might now think that it is acceptable to intimidate staff.

"There is a small minority of aggressive, highly disruptive pupils, who have a precedent now. This has given them something to live up to, and maybe something to emulate," he said.

The boy, who cannot be named, and his family, intend to move away from Cardiff.

Geraint Richards, the boy's solicitor, said: "He took his sentence like a man, as much as a 14-year-old can. But he knows he was wrong.

"He has a history of behavioural problems at home and at school, and there will be a lot of work done with him now."

Mr Gachi believes the case is symptomatic of a wider problem. He said verbal abuse and name-calling by pupils are so commonplace that it had not occurred to him to suspect that the convicted schoolboy's aggressive behaviour might lead to violence.

He said: "Pupils are pushing back the boundaries more and more, to see what can be done before they are excluded."

Rod Phillips, head of Cathays, hopes the case may ultimately improve teachers' safety in school. He said: "We are all appalled by this. I do not tolerate either verbal or physical abuse. If potential criminal acts have taken place, I always involve the police.

"But if a clear message goes out to pupils across England and Wales that this kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable, then perhaps some good can come from the whole affair."

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, which represents Mr Gachi, said: "Problems arising from disruptive pupils are often cited as the main reason teachers leave the profession prematurely.

"Teachers like any other employees are entitled not to be abused in the course of their work."


* RE teacher Mike Wilson was attacked by a pupil two years ago and suffered cracked ribs. He had been walking down a corridor at his school holding a ring-binder full of work when a 15-year-old pupil ran up and slammed the folder into his chest. Mr Wilson reported the incident to his headteacher and the school, Grove secondary in Newark, Nottinghamshire, immediately expelled the pupil.

* A secondary teacher in the East of England was viciously teased by pupils about her size. She needed time off after suffering repeated insults from pupils, including being called a "fat-bellied pig" in front of a Year 8 class.

* Teachers at a Coventry primary school refused to teach a seven-year-old boy after the head's decision to expel him for violent behaviour was overturned by an appeal panel in October 2002. Staff at the 550-pupil Frederick Bird school took industrial action over the pupil, who has a history of violence and who has made malicious allegations against a member of staff.

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