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Last Updated: Friday, 16 April, 2004, 06:20 GMT 07:20 UK
Teachers 'demand more protection'
Classroom
Attacks on teachers are increasingly common
A teachers' union has voted for more protection for teachers who are wrongly accused of assaulting pupils.

The Ulster Teachers' Union is concerned about allegations of physical assault or sexual abuse being made against teachers which later turn out to be false.

It says bogus claims have ruined the lives of some teachers, and the identity of teachers under investigation should not be revealed.

The union says it is too easy to make claims which cause long periods of anxiety for teachers, who then either have the investigation dropped or are proved innocent.

Attacks on teachers are increasingly common, and the union says they often feel vulnerable when dealing with disruptive pupils.

The union says teachers need to be protected by their employers and when allegations are made against them, should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Law changes

The union has also called for changes to the law so that teachers can claim compensation from people who wrongly accuse them.

Some teachers are being trained to take measures of "reasonable force" to restrain children who might be endangering themselves, other pupils or school property.

However, the union says these teachers could be leaving themselves open to claims of assault and has called for them to be given legal protection.

We have all heard of cases in the public domain where teachers' careers and lives have been ruined and yet at the end of the investigation they have been found to be completely innocent
Sally McKee
UTU president

It says teachers will be advised to refuse training in the use of physical restraint until they are given protection in law.

Ulster Teachers' Union president Sally McKee said: "We are talking about false, malicious allegations that can be made against teachers.

"Once an investigation is started, a teacher's name can be in the public domain and there are members of the community who will immediately find a teacher guilty before an investigation can be carried out.

"These can be allegations of assault, of sexual abuse. They can range from minor allegations to very serious allegations.

"We certainly do not want to protect any teacher who has acted in an unprofessional manner.

"What we are calling for is a basic human right for a teacher to be innocent until proven guilty."

Ms McKee said she had a false allegation made against her.

"Although I was completely vindicated by the investigation, it was a very stressful situation.

"We have all heard of cases in the public domain where teachers' careers and lives have been ruined and yet at the end of the investigation they have been found to be completely innocent."

Meanwhile, members of the teachers' union, the NASUWT, have said policies allowing children with disabilities to be taught in mainstream schools should be reviewed.

The union is concerned that schools are being forced to admit children who also have severe behavioural problems.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Maggie Taggart:
"The union has also called for changes to the law so that teachers can claim compensation from people who accuse them wrongly"


UTU president Sally McKee:
"Although I was completely vindicated by the investigation, it was a very stressful situation"



SEE ALSO:
Pay action may now hit lessons
03 Mar 04  |  Education
Warning over schools action
24 Feb 04  |  Northern Ireland
Teachers 'may step up action'
20 Jan 04  |  Northern Ireland


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