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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 April 2007, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Teacher tells of false claim ordeal
A former teacher from Northern Ireland falsely accused of indecently assaulting a 12-year-old pupil has said he no longer feels safe around children.

Teachers at a NASUWT conference in Belfast are to demand the government brings in legislation to protect them from malicious allegations by pupils or parents.

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David Bell who was suspended as a result of the allegation, but cleared two years later in court, said some pupils were now aware how vulnerable teachers were to such allegations.

"It's certainly a way of neutralising a teacher who they may have a grudge against," Mr Bell said.

"I don't think many teachers actually survive suspensions. It undermines their own confidence, it undermines their careers, their standing in the schools."

Mr Bell was found guilty of a technical assault - he admitted touching the pupil under the chin when telling her to cheer up.

It's terminated my career in teaching, I couldn't return to teaching with the prospect of endless allegations
David Bell

He was given an absolute discharge but did not work for 27 months while proceedings were taking place.

Just over a day after returning to work he was the subject of another false allegation.

A pupil injured in a playground fight claimed the teacher had punched him in the nose. He dropped the allegation minutes later.

"But it highlighted to me the vulnerability of myself that I would be seen as fair game for any such allegation," Mr Bell said.

"It's terminated my career in teaching, I couldn't return to teaching with the prospect of endless allegations."

He said teachers facing such claims should immediately contact their union.


Another teacher, Andy Brown, told a story about a fellow teacher who lost her mobile phone.

"Before she got it back she got a phone call from a very elderly relative, who had a number of boys calling her all the names of the day down the phone and they said they knew where she lived and they were going to kill her," Mr Brown said.

The internet is increasingly being used to target teachers

"She got the phone back and found that a pornographic film had been downloaded and her head and been superimposed onto that.

"Even worse the head of a pre-teen sibling of hers had been superimposed onto the top of the head and they had phoned that pre-teen sibling and said this is what we have done."

NASUWT Northern Ireland president Fred Brown said false allegations against teachers were becoming much more common and more sophisticated.

"The internet is used to make allegations and these allegations are totally anonymous," Mr Brown said.

He said those pupils found to have made false allegations should be moved to another school.

Teachers victims of cyber-bullies
12 Feb 07 |  Northern Ireland
Government acts on cyber-bullies
25 Jul 06 |  Education

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