Teacher cleared of glue stick assault

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The Independent Online

An art teacher sobbed with relief today as a jury cleared her of assaulting a pupil with a glue stick.









Lynda May, 54, of Neath, South Wales, broke down and wept as she was found not guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm to a teenage pupil's thumb nail.



The jury at Swansea Crown Court took three hours to reach their verdict at the end of a brief trial lasting less than two days.







Trial judge John Diehl said: "Lynda May, you are discharged and can leave the dock," after the jury foreman had delivered the verdict.



Mrs May wept and walked from the dock to her husband's side where she buried her head into his shoulder as she sobbed.



The teaching veteran of more than 30 years was charged with the offence in October last year, more than five weeks after the classroom incident.



She insisted throughout that what was described as a "relatively minor injury" to the schoolboy had been caused accidental.



It happened after the teenager had slammed a glue stick down on her hand during an art lesson in September last year.



During the trial the pupil was described as having behavioural problems and was prone to banging his fist on tables in frustration.



Mrs May had argued that she had used the glue stick to demonstrate the inappropriateness of his actions by showing him how he looked.



She said she had been unaware that her mimicked gesture had connected with his thumb and injured him.







A smiling but still emotional Mrs May said after the verdict that "the whole process has taken a toll on my health after eight months".



She added that she had no immediate plans to return to work: "I need to rest and have time to think. I think I deserve that."



The mother of three was supported today by her husband Alan, her mother and two of her children.



David Evans, Wales secretary for the NUT, read out a brief statement on behalf of the family.



He welcomed the fact that "common sense had prevailed" but questioned the point of going as far as a Crown Court trial.



"The fact that Lynda has now been fully vindicated and cleared of the criminal charge is a great relief.



"But we need to consider whether this whole process was justified in terms of the evidence brought, the cost, the time and the expense and the personal cost to Lynda and her family in terms of anxiety and worry."



He added: "Of course, all allegations, particularly when they are brought by children, must be investigated.



"But it is the nature of the investigation and its processes and the fact that it should be pursued through to a Crown Court trial that must questioned."



He said Mrs May's situation was far from being an isolated case but most are never taken as far as court.



"It is very sad that it came this far but fortunately, in this case, common sense has prevailed."







The glue stick classroom incident happened during a double art lesson at the start of the new September term.



Pupils had been given glue sticks so they could stick cut-out patterns on to a larger piece of card to make a collage.



The schoolboy became frustrated at his lack of progress and slammed the glue stick down on the table, hitting his teacher's hand in the process.



During the trial she had dismissed any harm done to her as unimportant, saying: "I have had far, far worse, believe me."



But his behaviour came in a lesson in which he had sulked, sworn and generally abused a teacher who had patiently and politely encouraged him to work.



She insisted that her only object had been to correct his behaviour by showing up to him what he was doing.



But she also gave a glimpse of the sort of classroom strains and pressures that teachers now appear habitually to have to work under.



During her evidence she said that swearing in school was now so commonplace it was no longer even regarded as an issue.



Assaults on teachers by pupils were also far from isolated and she had repeatedly been kicked, punched and pushed over the years.



In a serious assault she suffered in 2007, a schoolgirl bit her with such force that her whole upper arm was bruised.



The jury was shown photographs taken at the time showing teeth marks and the extent of the bruising, and was told the pupil's teeth had been clamped for a considerable time.



No suggestion was made during the trial that any of the assaults on Mrs May had ever been reported to the police or officially investigated.