Accused teacher 'regularly assaulted' by pupils

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The Independent Online

An art teacher on trial for wounding a pupil's thumb with a glue stick told today how she was regularly assaulted by pupils herself.

Lynda May, 54, of Neath, South Wales, said she had been bitten, kicked, punched and pushed by pupils who also swore at her daily.

In a serious assault in 2007 she was bitten by a schoolgirl with such force she had major bruising down one arm.

Jurors at Swansea Crown Court were passed photographs of the injury today which showed the extent of the bruising at the time.

"We couldn't release her jaws, it lasted quite a long while so it was quite painful," she told the court.

May went on trial yesterday accused of causing actual bodily harm to a schoolboy with a glue stick. She denies the charge.

May, a mother-of-three, was suspended from school within a month of the incident and charged by police on October 23.

She broke down today as she described the events leading up to what she insists was an "accidental" injury to his thumb nail.

The schoolboy was taken to hospital with his wound after the incident last September and told the injury was "superficial".

Prosecutor Patrick Griffiths yesterday described the injury as "relatively minor".

He acknowledged the pupil, who had a reputation for unruly behaviour, was "prone" to slamming down his fist on tables in frustration.

At the time of the incident the class had been sticking cut-out patterns on to a large piece of paper using glue sticks.

When the teenager became frustrated at his lack of progress he slammed the glue stick down on the table and hit May's hand.

May is accused of losing her temper and retaliating by slamming down the same glue stick on the pupil's thumb, injuring his nail.

Speaking today in her own defence she rejected any suggestion that she had lost her temper.

She said she had taken the glue stick and banged it down on the table to demonstrate how not to act and show up his bad behaviour.

"I told him he had hurt me and banged the glue stick on the table, then said 'see, it doesn't get you anywhere'."

May said she had told the class first what she was going to do and given it a less vigorous demonstration before slamming down the glue stick, unaware that she had come into contact with the schoolboy's thumb.

May told the court she had only become aware that she had injured the pupil's thumb when it was later drawn to her attention.

"I did not see that the glue stick had hit his hand at any point," she said.

"I did not know that he had injured his hand at all until it was pointed out to me. Someone said 'his finger is bleeding, Miss'."

She said until that point he had just been sitting in his chair and she had praised his behaviour.

As she spoke of the injury May broke down and sobbed and was passed a packet of paper tissues by the court usher.

She said the pupil had then gone to the sink to run his thumb under the tap and she had gone over and apologised when she had seen he was injured.

"I was very upset at this point," she said with a tremor in her voice, adding: "I think that I went over and said sorry because I assumed I had hurt him."

Earlier she had described how the schoolboy had started the double art lesson in a sulky mood and refused to come into the classroom.

May said when she encouraged him to enter the class and work, he had said: "F*** off, I don't f****** have to."

After she had apologised for hurting his thumb with the glue stick he had replied: "F*** off you f****** c***."

May said that bad language from pupils had been common in all the schools where she had worked and was "not really seen as an issue".

When asked if she had ever been assaulted herself, she replied: "Oh yes, on a number of occasions."

She went on to agree the assaults took the form of everything from punches as she walked along the corridor to kicks and pushes.

Mr Griffiths, concluding his cross-examination of May, said: "I suggest you did lose your cool and lashed out and that is how you came to cause this injury."

May replied: "I did not. Definitely not."

May's evidence concluded her defence and the trial rapidly moved to final summing up by the judge.

The jury retired to seek a verdict and was later sent home for the evening. It will reconvene at 10.30am tomorrow.