TEACHERS are entitled to refuse to teach violent and disruptive pupils, the High Court has ruled this week.
In a landmark case, a 16-year-old boy, who was taught in isolation largely by supply teachers after allegedly verbally and physically abusing staff and classmates, failed to have the boycott declared illegal. Crucially the judge dismissed the argument that barring the boy from class breached his human rights.
Union leaders said that they could now confidently proceed with similar action in dozens of cases where teachers are being forced to teach violent or disruptive pupils.
After being permanently excluded last June by the headteacher of Bonus Pastor school in Lewisham, south London, the teenager was reinstated by governors following an appeal from his mother.
He returned to school for the autumn term but continued to misbehave and was excluded again for two days. The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers balloted its 26 members at the school over industrial action. They voted unanimously not to teach the boy.
At a cost of more than pound;15,000 to the school, the boy has since been tutored by suply teachers for every subject except maths and drama.
The boy, who denied all allegations, was accused of being aggressive to one ethnic-minority teacher and threatening to knock another staff member to the ground. He was also accused of trying to strangle a classmate and being racially abusive. The judge made no ruling about the allegations.
Since being removed from mainstream lessons, the court heard, "peace has broken out in the classroom".
Mr Justice Morison, who refused permission to appeal, dismissed the argument that the dispute over whether to teach the boy could not be regarded as a lawful trade dispute because it was not related to terms and conditions of employment.
He rejected the suggestion that the boy's right to education, enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998, had been breached, as he was getting one-to-one tuition.
He said: "Disruptive pupils are a menace and, quite apart from the direct effect upon teachers, they damage the educational interests of the other children in the class."
The boy will now continue to be taught on an individual basis until he sits his eight GCSEs in May and June.