Teacher attacked by primary school pupil wins damages

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A TEACHER who sued for £100,000 after she was attacked by a pupil with Down’s Syndrome at a city primary school has won her court battle for damages.

Jacqueline Cuthbertson was working at a school in west Edinburgh when the girl launched the assault on her in the middle of her classroom.

The 49-year-old said that the girl was “violent and unpredictable” towards staff and other pupils, and a teaching assistant was employed to ensure at least two adults were in the classroom with the child at any time. Mrs Cuthbertson had even been given a radio to alert other staff if she needed help with the girl, who was in the early years of primary school at the time of the incident.

The teacher had tried to stop the girl grabbing a tub containing scissors when she grabbed Mrs Cuthbertson by the hands and bent them back until her right wrist cracked.

Mrs Cuthbertson told the Evening News that she was “satisfied” the case had been settled after what was a “difficult matter”.

She sued the city council after suffering a soft tissue injury which left her unable even to brush her own teeth and required an operation to try to repair the damage.

Mrs Cuthbertson was forced off sick at the school where she had taught since 1995, and required continuing physiotherapy to her wrist.

Council lawyers contested the damages claim brought at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, claiming that the pupil did not have a history of violence at the school, which cannot be named for legal reasons.

The legal team also said Mrs Cuthbertson’s other health issues, which included osteo-arthritis in both knees, was a factor in her being unable to work.

Council chiefs today said that a settlement had been reached with Mrs Cuthbertson, but said they could not disclose the amount being paid out.

Mrs Cuthbertson had started teaching the girl in August 2008, and her lawyers told the court the youngster would “regularly spit, kick out, throw objects and hit people”, including pupils.

A learning assistant was employed to work with the pupil in class while Mrs Cuthbertson was issued with a radio, which was later removed from the classroom before the attack, which took place on December 19, 2008.

The court heard the learning assistant had been on a break when the girl refused to take off her coat after returning from break time.

The youngster then threw her jacket behind a cupboard before tipping out the contents of the assistant’s handbag. Mrs Cuthbertson spoke to the girl, who had seemed to calm down, and put the handbag on top of a cupboard when the youngster grabbed a basket and tried to throw it.

The pupil made a grab for a tub containing scissors when Mrs Cuthbertson, who said she was concerned for the safety of other children, tried to stop her. The girl grasped the teacher’s hands, bending them back and inflicting the injury.

The court heard she suffered soft tissue injury in her wrist, as well as ligament and cartilage damage. She was finally absent from work from September 2009 due to the condition.

Mrs Cuthbertson said that she had never received training in dealing with “violent or difficult” pupils, adding that following the incident a behaviour specialist visited the school to instruct teachers about restraint methods.

A city council spokeswoman said the authority could not comment on the case for legal reasons.