Teacher, assistant ‘bullied girl’

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Published: Monday 24th November 2014 by The News Editor

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A teacher and a classroom assistant carried out a five-month campaign of bullying against a seven-year-old pupil in which they taped her to a chair and shut her in a storeroom, a court has heard.

Rachael Regan, 43, and Deborah McDonald, 41, went on trial today at Bradford Crown Court charged with child cruelty after they “singled out and bullied” the girl at a school in the Calderdale area.

The catalogue of incidents against the pupil, who is now nine, also included sticking post-it notes to her thumbs, tying her shoes on with string, calling her a nickname, kicking her chair, goading her with a biscuit, hiding her doll and tearing up her photograph.

The jury heard that McDonald, the teacher, also made a calendar to give to colleagues which included a number of comments and photographs of the girl.

Simon Waley, prosecuting, told the court that another member of staff had witnessed some of the incidents against the pupil.

He said: “(The staff member) felt that (the girl) was being singled out and bullied by these defendants on a regular basis.”

Mr Waley told the jury that McDonald and teaching assistant Regan were jointly responsible for what happened to the girl.

He said: “The prosecution say that they wilfully ill-treated her, in that they pursued a course of conduct in which their systematic treatment of her amounted to bullying and which caused her unnecessary suffering by way of upset and distress.

“Both were playing their part in this course of conduct, even if they did not each play a physical role in each of the acts complained of.”

Mr Waley told the court an investigation was launched by the school and the police after the girl told her mother a teacher had tied her to a chair with sticky tape so she could not move.

He said: “She said that the class had been laughing at her and that she was the ‘class clown’.”

The prosecutor said the girl told the police Regan taped her to the chair.

He said: “She said that Mrs Regan put it all around the chair and it was hard breathing. She said that she couldn’t get out to reach her things. She said that the whole class were laughing.”

Mr Waley said she also told police that Regan had bound string to her legs and feet to keep her pumps on.

He said: “She said it was horrible and that, again, everybody had been laughing.”

The girl told police that Regan, of Illingworth, West Yorkshire, put Post-it notes on to her thumbs when she had been sucking them and shut the door to a store room, leaving her on a chair inside.

Other staff members at the school told police they had witnessed some of the incidents.

One support assistant said the girl’s arms were “fastened down by her sides with the Sellotape around her more than once” and said she was taped to the chair for around 10 minutes. She said Regan went to another classroom to fetch another teaching assistant to show her what she had done.

Mr Waley said Regan told her colleague: “She’ll not get up and wander around the classroom now.”

The support assistant also told police the girl was made to stand on a chair after she had the string tied to her legs and felt this was ” so that everyone could laugh at her”.

The prosecutor described a number of other incidents against the girl.

He said the defendants gave the children biscuits for good homework but did not include the girl as she had not completed hers. They then goaded her by telling her how delicious the biscuits were.

He said McDonald, of Halifax, dropped the girl’s doll into a drawer and kicked it shut and, on another occasion, kicked the girl’s chair when she was swinging on it, “causing (the girl) to jerk forward”.

Mr Waley said Regan pulled a photograph of the girl off the wall and ripped it to pieces in front of her.

The court heard that the defendants denied ever bullying the girl when they were interviewed by the police and described some of the incidents as “fun” and “a joke”. They deny the charges.

Mr Waley said: “In relation to some of (the incidents), the defence accept that they occurred but say that they were not malicious but rather well-intentioned and good-humoured incidents in which (the girl) had been a participant in the humour.”

The prosecutor said the calendar made by McDonald, which was described by one staff member as “taking the mickey” out of the girl, was evidence of the “spiteful contempt” in which the defendants held the pupil.

He said: “These were not episodes of fun but rather a course of conduct amounting to cruelty.”

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.

Published: Monday 24th November 2014 by The News Editor

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