Campaign for safer schools

Submitted by Janine on 15 May, 2005 - 8:49

By Pat Yarker

A sixteen-year old schoolboy pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey this month to raping his teacher in her classroom at a south London school. He was 15 years old at the time of the assault in September 2004.

The prosecutor, Brendon Kelly, told the court that the teacher “did all she could to resist”, and detailed how she had fought against her attacker. Her courage and presence of mind in retaining some of her attacker’s semen in her mouth later enabled conclusive DNA evidence of his guilt to be laid before him, and was instrumental in his guilty plea. This in turn ensured that the victim did not have to give evidence in court.

The police were among those pointing out the extreme rarity of such an attack happening in a school, and with this level of violence. Despite the concern over violent assaults on teachers, this case is not the tip of an iceberg. Nevertheless, some issues are highlighted by it.

The rapist was known to the police, yet the school did not know of his record, including his apparent history of sexually-aggressive behaviour. It is not routine for the police to pass on to schools information derived from their dealings with students.

This particular student had attended a number of schools across London. His mobility between schools added to the difficulty of ensuring that his history was fully known.

Moves to address the problem of sharing information between agencies involved with young people include “Full Service schools”. In these, police, health, counselling and social-service workers are based on the school-site for the school community, including parents and carers, to use. There should be no delay in funding such a service if schools decide they want it.

The case does raise once again issues of safety in schools — about site lay-out, the isolation of classrooms (especially of so-called “mobile” or “temporary” classrooms). Union and Health and Safety reps should continue to pursue this matter.

Bernard Regan, NUT Executive member, has worked closely with staff at the school where the rape took place, and with the teacher involved who, he said, planned to return to teaching.

The complex, multi-faceted and much more characteristic issues about “behaviour” in schools, which the Channel Five programme Classroom Chaos attempted to raise during the General Election campaign, will be the subject of a future article in this paper.

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