Assistant head cleared of assaulting girl, 15, reveals his six months of hell ‘hiding out in a caravan’
For William Stuart, it became a ritual. Every morning, he would leave his neat semi-detached home and take refuge for the day in a caravan at a nearby park. He could not bear to face questions from joiners creating his new kitchen about why he was not going to work.
Until cleared last week of assaulting a 15-year-old girl pupil, the assistant head teacher had endured a six-month ordeal after being suspended from the job he ‘lived and breathed’.
But Mr Stuart, with a 23-year unblemished career, remains suspended pending a General Teaching Council investigation and says teachers facing complaints should have anonymity until the issue is resolved.
Speaking for the first time after his two-day trial at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court, he said the hardest part of his nightmare was the distress it caused his children – Laura, 16, and David, 12 – who attend the school and ‘burst out crying’ when he told them he was being suspended.
‘The world is mad to allow respected professionals to be put through hell at the whim of children in their care,’ said Mr Stuart.
‘It’s not just the pupil, it is parents and police who soak up all the lies and give extra credence to their complaints that then put totally innocent teachers in the dock.
‘We need a return of common sense. It was a great example of society being turned upside-down.’
Science teacher Mr Stuart, 47, was charged after the girl claimed he shoved her to the ground and against coat pegs at Graham comprehensive school in Scarborough.
It’s over: Teacher William Stuart, seen with wife Sarah, has been cleared of assaulting a 15-year-old pupil
Mr Stuart allegedly lost control after the girl ignored his instruction to stay behind after food had been smeared on the canteen wall.
The charge was dismissed because the girl’s account did not tally with that of two other pupils who gave evidence for the prosecution.
The girl had 19 entries in the school’s ‘bad behaviour’ log from September 2009 to July this year. And she has already been excluded this term after assaulting another pupil.
After the teenager made her claim, Mr Stuart faced a gruelling five-and-a-half-hour police interview.
He added: ‘The suspension came two months before GCSEs for my Year 11 pupils. It was letting them down at a crucial time – it was all so unfair. It is almost like a bereavement when you get suspended. You lose a major part of your life. I had to miss my daughter’s prom at the school and all due to a lot of adults wanting to believe a pack of lies.’
The girl accused Mr Stuart of shoving her to the ground and against some coat pegs at Graham School in Scarborough (pictured) where Mr Stuart is assistant head teacher
Mr Stuart, whose wife Sarah also teaches, said the stress of the case caused him to lose a stone in weight.
‘I took myself off every morning to stay on a local caravan park to give the impression I was going to work as I didn’t want to set the neighbours’ tongues wagging,’ he said.
‘I also went there to avoid having to talk to the guys fitting the kitchen as the first thing they would ask is, “What do you do for a living?”
‘I’d have to reply, “Teacher” and then they’d ask, “Why are you not at school?” That was a question that I just didn’t want to answer. I was living the nightmare and didn’t want the added anguish of talking about my ordeal to some strangers.
‘I also missed the retirement of four colleagues who were special to me.’
Mr Stuart was often forced to confront the worst-case scenario.
‘I could have gone to jail for six months and lost my pension,’ he said. ‘There were times Sarah got really low and I hated that. I told her, “I can make it stop.” But she said no way was I to admit to a crime I hadn’t committed.
‘It was that bad at times I thought about picking up the phone and telling the police what they wanted to hear. But I never did it because I was brought up not to lie.’
After a court appearance in June, Mr Stuart was pictured in his local newspaper.
‘Teachers deserve anonymity up to conviction,’ he claimed.
He is also being investigated by the Independent Safeguarding Authority and is now considering his future as a teacher.
‘I’m innocent, yet details of my arrest will be on any Criminal Records Bureau check,’ Mr Stuart said. ‘That is a black mark against any future job applications. How can that be right?’
The school’s head teacher, Garry Hancock, said: ‘I am sure he is relieved at the outcome of the case. The school will complete the internal process as soon as possible.’