London teacher throttled by pupil as colleagues look on unable to intervene

December 28, 2008

We are grateful to NFPS (National Federation for Personal Safety) for bringing this article to our attention.  This story also appears in the Daily Mail

A teacher who won £250,000 compensation after a pupil tried to strangle him has criticised the apparent ‘can’t touch’ culture that exists in schools after other teaching staff initially refused to intervene to assist him.

The 50 year-old teacher, Colin Adams, was attacked by a 12 year-old boy who knocked Mr Adams to the floor before punching and kicking him and throttling him with his hands around Mr. Adams’ neck.

The assault occurred because the boy had been misbehaving in another teacher’s class and Mr. Adams, as the Head of Department, had gone to the teachers aid. He ordered the boy to leave but the pupil refused. Then, as Mr. Adams left the room the boy launched his attack.

However, other teachers who arrived and witnessed the assault refused to step in to help. Instead they shouted at the boy and yelled at him to stop, fearing that if they touched the boy they would very likely be charged with assault.

Mr Adams ordeal ended only after another teacher eventually came to his aid by forcing the boys thumbs back to release the hold on Mr. Adams neck. However, later on the teacher admitted to Mr. Adams that he was afraid that the boy would accuse him of assault.

It also later on emerged that the boy had a history of violence, having previously attacked pupils and a security guard at a library opposite the school in East London. However, the boy was not properly disciplined over the assaults and staff were also not warned about his past behaviour.

The extent of the problems in our schools were further highlighted when figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that police were called to schools 10,000 times last year to deal with incidents of violence.

 Police advice – ‘Kick him in the back’

The police informed the school that staff could have kicked the boy in his back to make him let go of Mr. Adams.

As a result of the attack Mr. dams was forced to give up work after suffering severe stress and back problems. His distress was even further compounded by a lengthy court battle for compensation, taking four and a half years to secure compensation of £250,000 in an out of court settlement from Newham Borough Council.

‘Not the first time’

However, this is not the first time the London Borough of Newham has had to pay compensation.

On the 27th March 2002 the case of Judith Waugh was reported in the press. At the time she was a 53 year-old teacher who was attacked in 1998 by a dangerous 14 year-old boy at a special school by who gouged her face with his nails.

After the 1998 assault at the John F Kennedy special school in Stratford, East London, Miss. Waugh suffered severe psychiatric problems and took early retirement. She told Mr Justice Cooke that although her injuries had healed, she still needs intensive stress therapy.

Her attacker, who could be identified only as D at the time, was known to suffer from severe behavioural problems, and the judge ruled that the London Borough of Newham, which denied liability, was negligent for not revealing the need for fuller restraint of the pupil.

As a result Miss Waugh won £190,000 damages in the High Court against the London Borough of Newham.

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