Teachers to sue more councils over violence

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A teachers' union is preparing to sue four more local authorities where teachers have been victims of violent attacks by pupils after a teacher won damages of pounds 82,500.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers announced its plans as Hazel Spence-Young told how she was attacked and permanently disabled by a 10-year-old pupil. Mrs Spence-Young won the award, one of the largest ever made to a teacher, because Coventry City Council refused to remove from her class a boy who was so violent that psychologists said he should be in a special school.

The union said it was "virtually certain" to take similar cases to court. The cases are:

t An assault last month on a 49-year-old Sandwell language teacher who suffered post-traumatic stress after being punched in the face by a pupil and receiving cuts and bruises on the eye, nose and lip.

t An attack on a 43-year-old Derbyshire teacher by a 12-year-old. She suffered a wrenched shoulder and bruised wrist and eventually had to resign.

t An attack on a 46-year-old special needs teacher in Leeds by a 15-year- old. She was smashed to the ground, suffered a broken nose, black eyes and damaged tear ducts.

t An attack on a 42-year-old Nottinghamshire teacher who was pushed into the wall and punched by a 15-year-old with a history of violent behaviour. The victim was off work for three months.

Mrs Spence-Young, who taught at Frederick Bird primary school until the attack, yesterday urged other teachers to take action against violent pupils. "I hope I can stand as an example to other teachers who feel as angry and frustrated and helpless as I did dealing with a child who shouldn't be in a mainstream classroom and being given no help to deal with him."

The council told her she would be in breach of contract if she refused to teach the boy. When the 10-year-old attacked her, she suffered injuries which mean that she needs a neck brace and is in continual pain which has to be controlled by drugs. Her right arm is partly paralysed. The attack happened after she tried to lead him back into her class. "I was being kicked and punched and pummelled. It was as if there were hands and feet everywhere." Her injuries meant she could not pick up her grandson.

Nigel de Gruchy, the union's general secretary, said: "The message we are sending out to negligent employers is that the union will pursue these cases. And if we can't pursue them with reason and common sense and justice, we will pursue them in the courts and hit them where it hurts, in their pockets."