Pupils quick to ring lawyers

31st March 2000 at 01:00
CHILDREN as young as six are being taught by parents to threaten legal action if reprimanded "inappropriately" by a teacher, a criminal defence expert told the conference.

Joanna Stevens, a partner in the Cardiff office of Thompsons solicitors, said she had recently heard a six-year-old girl say in a police interview that her parents had told her to react to any reprimand or behaviour she thought inappropriate by saying: "Don't do that or I'll contact my solicitor." The girl had accused her headteacher of physical assault.

Allegations of assault and abuse were becoming an occupational hazard for heads, Ms Stevens said.

In her experiene over the past 10 years, 95 per cent of them proved unfounded and no action was taken by the police.

More awareness of parents and pupils' "rights" was one reason for the increase. Other factors were irresponsible media coverage of cases involving teachers and children and the "culture of blame" that made some parents avoid all responsibility for their child's problems.

Heads and other teachers facing allegations of assault or abuse were often too nice to rebut them effectively at police interviews. "They don't want to be critical of the child accusing them even though that child may have been making their life hell," she said.

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