Raped teacher wins damages

26th June 2009 at 01:00
Woman claims school was negligent for failing to warn her of attacker's 'appalling' history of aggressive behaviour

A teacher who was raped and beaten by a 15-year-old pupil has won damages after accusing her school of failing to protect her.

The 32-year-old, who cannot be named, said she held Westminster City School in central London responsible for placing her "in the way of a rapist" after it failed to warn her of a previous sexual attack at the school.

The woman was attacked by Dwayne Best during her first week at the school in September 2004 as she marked books in her classroom at the end of the day.

Best, who is serving a life sentence for the attack, threatened to kill the teacher during a violent 12-minute struggle before forcing her to engage in an act of oral sex.

The woman, who has not returned to teaching, sued the school's governors for negligence for failing to inform her that a cleaner had been the victim of a sexual attack just three months earlier.

She also argued that Best should have been excluded from the school earlier for his "appalling" history of aggressive behaviour.

The school has denied responsibility, but reached an out-of-court settlement with the former teacher. The scale of the damages has not been disclosed.

Speaking afterwards, the former teacher said the school should have carried out a risk assessment after the cleaner was attacked.

"Nobody warned me. On a basic level, that's what it comes down to. If they had, I wouldn't have been there in the classroom," she said.

"I take my own safety very seriously and I always have. I don't put myself in those kind of positions.

"Somebody else put me in the way of a rapist. That infuriates me intensely. Everybody has the right not only to not be raped, but to make decisions about their own safety."

The teacher said that Best's records showed a "degenerative" pattern of behaviour that the school should have picked up on.

"It's very sad that nobody valued my life enough to take one or two simple steps," she said. "That's one of the most depressing aspects of the case."

The former teacher said she hoped her case would make schools look closely at their policies to ensure the safety of staff.

"Being raped and losing my job was like being bereaved," she said. "I lost a thing I loved doing. It was devastating. I lost myself."

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, which represented the former teacher, said: "This is a case of a teacher who has suffered terribly as a direct result of poor school security.

"It is quite often the case that important and relevant information is not passed on to teachers - in this case, with catastrophic consequences.

"The NUT is pleased to have won the case on behalf of our member. However, this is a situation that should never have arisen."

A spokesman for Westminster City School said: "This incident took place at the school five years ago. It was a highly unusual case, which could not have been foreseen by the school. Neither was this incident the fault of the school.

"Both parties have now resolved this matter and are not at liberty to provide any further information."

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