Schoolmistress tells of public assault by her former pupil: Girl had borne grudge for years

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The Independent Online
MARY, a 46-year-old comprehensive teacher, had been working in schools since 1967 before suffering an attack by a pupil. But when it came it was shocking, painful and humiliating, writes Steve Boggan.

She was walking through her local shopping centre in the south of England when she heard her name called. As she turned, Mary saw the face of a former pupil who had borne a grudge against her for years. Then she was punched in the face.

'It was a very deep shock to the system,' she said. 'The girl, who was 17 at the time, had told people that she was out to get me but when I told the police, they said she was probably just being hysterical.'

Mary, who asked not to be named for fear of further attacks, suffered bruising to her face and neck. The police were called and witnesses gave statements but, against Mary's wishes, the girl was simply cautioned.

'I wasn't being vindictive, but it was important that this girl stood up in court for what she did,' Mary said. 'When the authorities fail to prosecute, discipline suffers. You are in a position of authority and you have to maintain that position.'

So, with the support of her union NASUWT, Mary took out a private prosecution against the girl. The former pupil pleaded not guilty before the local magistrates, but was found guilty. She was given only a conditional discharge, but Mary and the union were satisfied that the message had reached other pupils that they could not get away with violent actions.

'It took a lot of courage but I had a lot of support,' Mary said. 'It is only a tiny minority who are disobedient and, because of changes in funding, they can no longer be put into special schools, so they stay in the mainstream classrooms and cause disruption. But it is important that, with the breakdown of the family and other aspects of society, teachers are given the authority and respect they need.'