Hitting children is never the answer

One slap, against a boy who had pushed, punched and butted her - and a head teacher with an unblemished record of 35 years receives a three-month suspended jail sentence. On the face of it, a momentary, understandable lapse in the face of huge provocation, which has led to a grossly unfair outcome. Like Tony Martin before her, Marjorie Evans seems to have become a folk hero to the right-wing press. In their eyes, both have been unfairly convicted by a politically correct legal system for doing what was justifiable. O tempora! O mores!

One slap, against a boy who had pushed, punched and butted her - and a head teacher with an unblemished record of 35 years receives a three-month suspended jail sentence. On the face of it, a momentary, understandable lapse in the face of huge provocation, which has led to a grossly unfair outcome. Like Tony Martin before her, Marjorie Evans seems to have become a folk hero to the right-wing press. In their eyes, both have been unfairly convicted by a politically correct legal system for doing what was justifiable. O tempora! O mores!

But was it such a disaster? Marjorie Evans has been supported by colleagues, governors and her union. It seems unlikely that she will lose her job. Head teachers have to deal every day with disruptive, even violent pupils. Whereas a few decades ago, reciprocal violence was considered the acceptable response to such behaviour, it rightly is no longer. If exceptions are made to this rule, the distinction between teacher and bully become blurred.

Repulsively, many children suffer violence from adults at home. To them, teachers should be role models, practising methods of diffusing conflict without resorting to violence. In whom are abused children to confide if teachers are seen as violent too? The Government's confusing signals about exclusions have not helped teachers to deal with difficult pupils. David Blunkett should clarify his position on how schools should deal with disruptive pupils, who can wreck a school's ability to function. But that cannot excuse teachers from taking the law into their own hands. Ever.

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