A teacher at a Jersey school has been setting out her defence against two charges of common assault on a four-year-old autistic boy.
In the third day of the trial, the Magistrate’s Court yesterday heard the defendant categorically deny using force on the little boy, who she is accused of assaulting twice on the same day, February 9.
It is alleged the teacher, who has been suspended from work pending the outcome of the trial, wiped the child’s own saliva over his face during a cooking session in which pancakes were being made on Shrove Tuesday, and later kicked his legs.
The defendant and school have not been named in order to protect the identity of the child.
The defendant said she could not recall ever using force against a child in her many years working as an experienced teacher for children with autism.
She was asked by Defending Advocate Christina Hall whether she had employed force on this occasion.
The defendant replied: “No, I did not force him onto the stool, I assisted him onto it. I guided him with my hands on his arms and sat him on the stool. He was upset at the time and was crying. I was concerned because he could have banged his head on cupboards or banged his head on the floor if he had fallen and hurt himself.”
The defendant was asked about her mood on the day the incidents were alleged to have happened. She said: “It was normal. I had been asked to help with children in different circumstances. My mood was no different to any other day.’
Advocate Hall said: “But did you use force? She replied: “It was more guidance than force.”
The defendant was then asked whether she had wiped saliva over the boy’s face in a circular motion when the child started spitting.
She replied: “He pulled saliva out of his mouth and wiped it on the table. He did it once and I said ‘no spitting.’ He repeated it. I took his hand in my hand and put it to his face and said ‘no spitting.’
“The palms of my hands were flat and I moved it once one way and then the other, saying ‘no spitting.’ I wanted to re-inforce that I did not want him to take saliva out of his mouth and rub it on the table. I thought he would understand it more if I said ‘no spitting’ while doing a visual. It worked.”
Advocate Hall said witnesses had talked of the defendant using a circular motion to rub saliva onto the boy’s face.
She said: “I just wiped his palm across his face. There was no resistance and no force. I was supporting a child through a situation as I always did.”
Advocate Hall asked if the defendant remembered slapping, or kicking, the boy’s legs later that day.
She replied: "I don’t recall that incident at all. I would have lifted him and guided him to walk. There is some guidance in lifting a child, but no, not force.”
The defendant was asked if she had ever felt angry or frustrated by the boy’s actions, and replied: “No, no.”
Police Legal Adviser Jan Brewer asked if the defendant could be sure that she had “guided” the boy.
She replied: “Because that is how we would move a child around school. That is how I always do things and I did nothing different on that day to any other day. My practise would not have been any different on that day.
“I have been doing it a long time and I have never caused any harm before and so I instinctively would never have done it.”
Miss Brewer used an analogy, saying experienced car drivers sometimes fail to stop at red lights, despite claiming never to have gone through them.
The defendant said: “My practise is to always treat children with respect and my practise that day would have been no different to any other.”
Another witness, who was present when the ‘spitting’ incident was alleged to have taken place, said she had a different recollection of events to the defendant’s.
Miss Brewer read out her statement, saying: “I have never seen a pupil being treated in the way he was on this occasion. I didn’t understand the need for it. This stands out as being unusual.
“The boy was crying and screaming making a loud noise. The defendant came into the room and asked ‘What’s this noise?’ She then stood behind the boy and held him on a chair. She held him by his upper body.
“The boy continued being very upset and crying and my pupil held his hands over his ears. My pupil was unsettled with the situation.
“She wiped the palm of his hand in a circular motion around his face. It looked unpleasant and I did not understand the need for this to be happening. The boy was very teary. I was two metres away and it lasted for approximately three seconds. It was already taking place when I first noticed it. The boy cried for most of the time. Previously I had seen the boy have difficulties with moving from one activity to another.”
The case continues, in front of Magistrate Bridget Shaw.
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