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Issues - Gender Bias - Female teacher tells girls to hit boy

Teacher ordered girls to hit boys


A HIGHLAND teacher was yesterday convicted of recruiting a group of primary school girls armed with rulers to carry out classroom punishments on younger boys.

Avril Mackenzie used Primary Five girls to keep Primary Four boys in check at the small village school.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Alasdair MacFadyen told 55-year-old Mackenzie that she was the author of a system that relied on violence.

Mackenzie denied five charges of assault between 1 August, 2002, and 30 June, 2003 - but she was found guilty following a five-day trial at Dingwall Sheriff Court.

She was fined £750, but now faces losing her job and possibly her pension as well as the prospect of returning to her village community - which cannot be named for legal reasons - in disgrace.

Earlier in the trial, seven girls and boys - among them some of the victims of the assaults - told how Mackenzie had instructed the slightly older girls to hit the boys.

One child witness, who was eight at the time of the incident told how he was hit every day for a week before Christmas 2002.

Another said the boys were hit for giggling, talking in class and not doing what they were supposed to do.

One pupil, now aged 10, claimed three Primary Five girls hit him when he failed to do his work, or if he talked in class. Giving evidence herself, Mackenzie had claimed that the children had "bent the truth", and added: "I’m afraid some children just tell lies".

However, Sheriff MacFadyen decided that the evidence of the children was "compelling and convincing" and described Mackenzie’s claims as inconsistent.

Fiscal Roderick Urquhart said: "It is important not to lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with children, and the accused was their teacher, a figure of authority.

"The accused had set up the system, so she was responsible morally and criminally."

Ruth Anderson, a defence agent, said that Mackenzie has suffered medical problems such as stress and high blood pressure "as a result, at least in part, of the case".

"Today will pale into insignificance compared with the repercussions," she said. "I can’t imagine for a moment that she’ll ever be allowed to return to employment."

Giving evidence earlier in the case, Mackenzie had said it was "heartbreaking" and "30 years of work down the tubes."

Sentencing, Sheriff MacFadyen said: "Your behaviour was quite unacceptable. When parents entrusted their sons to you, they were entitled to expect they would not be assaulted in the classroom. Equally, other parents did not expect their daughters to receive instruction in the infliction of pain on classmates."
SOURCE: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=714892004&20040622104124

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