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Definition of "criminal assault"?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by mniakpr, May 17, 2018.

  1. mniakpr

    mniakpr New commenter

    I'm a TA who also works lunchtimes as a supervisor in a primary school. During a lunchtime earlier this week a fellow lunchtime supervisor brought in a girl from my Y2 class who had got a lump of sticky dough stuck in her hair. It wouldn't come out, and the girl was in great distress. My colleague and I decided between the two of us that we had to cut off the section of hair, to which the girl fully consented. The section was about the size and thickness of my little finger. It was obvious, because it was at the front of the girl's head rather than at the back. This action made the girl happy for the rest of the day. Knowing her class, I was also aware that if we had left the clot in, the boys would have made rude comments about her, increasing her already considerable degree of distress. I consider this common sense classroom management. It was all done on the playground, in full view.

    Both the class teacher and the head teacher, however, went ballistic when they found out, saying I had "scalped" the child. The following day the child's parent wanted to have me charged with "criminal assault", a course of action with which the head teacher fully agrees. I have been humiliatingly bawled out (that's no exaggeration) in front of all the other teachers and my job threatened for doing something that I considered would alleviate a pressing - and worsening - situation.

    Last week, a child was in some pain in the playground because, in attempting to put sunscreen on her face, she had got it in her eye. I got a tissue and was helping her wipe it out when the teacher saw me and yelled at me to stop, telling me I shouldn't touch the children. If I hadn't done so, the child's eye might have been damaged. Apparently that didn't matter.

    I feel as if I were living in some kind of parallel Orwellian world where common sense is criminal, where it is the job of teaching staff not to help the children in their care no matter what their need, and where parents launch prosecutions against staff who try to do so. All the teaching staff are on the head's and parent's side. Who's wrong here? Am I going barmy?
  2. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    You didn't think to check with the head before cutting the girl's hair then? Might have been a good idea.
    binaryhex, CWadd, FrankWolley and 5 others like this.
  3. fairypenny

    fairypenny Occasional commenter

    I really would not be impressed if my son came home from school with a bit of his hair missing because a staff member was worried about him being mocked by other children.
    If she was that distressed why didn’t you call her parents? Or arrange for her to spend the afternoon in a different room, maybe reading with a member of the office staff, or ‘helping’ in the library?
  4. Flanks

    Flanks Senior commenter

    I manage a team of TAs.

    On the one hand, you clearly acted with clear intentions. You respond to a child in some distress, and you acted to alleviate that distress.

    However, the child was at no risk at all, neither immediate nor if you delayed. There is no risk of harm coming to the child of you either do nothing or delay acting.

    In this case I think you acted outside your remit. It is painful to say, because you acted with no maliciousness and with only the child in mind.

    However, if you believed the risk (such as existed) was classroom based, you should approach the class teacher for direction. This is not a simple case of giving a child a hug when sad, or getting then a drink when hot. It is inevitable that your actions will come under review from a third party, if not the teacher then the parent, and therefore before acting you needed to consult a member of teaching staff.

    The child's 'consent' is irrelevant, they are not capable, the teacher and school can act on behalf of a parent in immediate need, however this does not apply as the need is not immediate. Normal practice would be to take it to class teacher, who probably checks with a colleague, they probably at least try to get in touch with a parent or make the decision themselves. At no point do you act without this guidance.

    The senior team may have bawled you out harder than is appropriate, I don't doubt that they could have been more gentle. That being said, I also suspect that even a milder telling off would have upset you in a similar fashion.

    Common sense is a myth, it normally means 'what I think is right' and as such is rarely as common as people think and it will not make sense to most.

    Chalk up to experience in my opinion.
  5. bonxie

    bonxie Lead commenter

    If you had phoned home and talked to the child's parents, they would have had the option to take her home and wash the dough out in the bath. Cutting a child's hair in this situation doesn't sound like the best move. Still, it's too late now and at least it will grow back. Hopefully everyone will realise you had the child's best intention at heart and it will all blow over. Next time though, go and talk to the head first unless the child is clearly at risk.
  6. meggyd

    meggyd Lead commenter

    I remember a child in a nursery class having a hairbrush cut out of their hair by a Ta. No one complained . It had to be done. Kids cut each others hair all the time and mostly parents have a little moan and then laugh about it. It was probably illl advised but assault?
  7. irs1054

    irs1054 Star commenter

    What you actually did falls under the minimum definition of what constitutes "common assault".

    You do have a possible defence that the "assault" was reasonable in the context of your duty taking care of the child. That would be a case of arguing the toss over the actual details if it came to the crunch. I wouldn't like to say which way it would go.

    You need legal advice asap if this goes any further. If you belong to a union then consult them, if not, you might have legal cover as part of your house insurance. Whatever, you need to get advice from someone who can tell you your rights if this doesn't blow over.

    Otherwise, if it does blow over, heave a sigh of relief, learn from it and move on.;)
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  8. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Star commenter

    I am quite sure you thought you were acting in the best interest of the child, but you should definitely have talked to the class teacher or a member of SLT before cutting her hair. I can understand that the Head Teacher was very upset and cross and wanted to talk to you about it (but there is no excuse for that happening in public). 'Criminal assault' seems extreme to me; often, these situations calm down in a couple of days and can be smoothed over. I hope that will be the case. If not, you should contact your union asap for advice.
  9. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    Consult your Union ASAP.

    FWIW, I think you acted in the chid's best interests. But it would have been better to talk to the HT first.

    Your HT should not have screamed at you in front of everyone. But if they've had the parents threatening them...I can see why. I hope it does blow over, but talk to your Union in case.
    FrankWolley likes this.
  10. baxterbasics

    baxterbasics Senior commenter

    I'm quite surprised the responses here.

    The idea of assault in this case is a huge exaggeration. If that had happened to my child and a small amount of hair had been removed, I wouldn't have given it a second thought.

    To me it just goes to show what a dangerous profession were are in - it's like treading on eggshells. And yet, at secondary schools, I bet that probably a thousand teachers are verbally abused nationwide a day, and a handful are probably physically abused each day in one way or another.
    -myrtille-, sbkrobson and mothorchid like this.
  11. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Let's all hope your head doesn't use TES...seeing this here won't help your case at all.

    Not really assault, but a very silly thing to do.
    Flanks likes this.
  12. baxterbasics

    baxterbasics Senior commenter

    Isn't that a bit of a patronising thing to say?
  13. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Hope not...apologies if it seems so. It wasn't meant to be.

    Cutting a chunk of someone's hair, which was obvious, is more likely to result in mocking by other children than having a chunk of playdoh or similar caught in the hair, and a whole lot longer lived!
    It was a really silly thing to do, especially after being told previously not to even touch children!
  14. GladRagsAtMidnight2017

    GladRagsAtMidnight2017 Occasional commenter

    To be honest if you are new to the job you should have had some basic training on what you can/can't do with regards First Aid. If you have been there sometime you may need a refresher. As a professional in school I'm afraid you can't cut hair or use a tissue to get sunscreen out of a child's eye without express permission because it leaves you open to complaint as you have found out. You must always check with SLT, the class teacher, or if unavailable, a designated First Aider first.

    Being bawled out in front of other staff however is unprofessional of the HT, and should have been handled a lot better.
    CWadd likes this.
  15. Crowbob

    Crowbob Lead commenter

    You were foolish in what you did. It shows poor judgment. You don't seem to accept that what you did was in the least bit questionable.

    Sunscreen won't lead to lasting damage to the eye. It is probably better bathed/washed away rather than rubbing with a tissue.
  16. catbefriender

    catbefriender Lead commenter

    The issue is EVERYBODY that works in a school, no matter how experienced they are, has to go through a period of Induction. And that induction should give clear indications of what is and what is not expected. If the school, like many I have been in haven't put put this TA under a full and proper induction/induction period then the school is to blame.

    I have been in schools and have had to chase SLTs for my induction because if anything goes wrong, which it will if there is NO induction, I will be blamed when it really is the school's fault. For instance, in some schools you can not issue a detention after the first instance of poor behaviour. I know it's madness and I did and I was told off because I didn't get the induction and the induction pack (ran out of copies!).

    If you have had a thorough induction which should happen when you start in a school, if you were told that you have to seek authorisation before doing anything like this, from either the class teacher, an SLT or parents, then it is your fault.

    Always cover yourself in teaching by asking the person you work directly under for advice and trying to do so in the form of a follow up email that it reads,

    Dear Sally, thanks for informing me that it will be alright to cut Daisy's hair.

    I am sorry but it was bad judgement and remember, depending on the race of the child, i.e. children of African origins hair grows slower to say Asian hair which grows the faster, it could cause more distress and in several cultures, hair should never be cut etc. The parents should have been notified and their permission given in writing and they have every right to be upset.

    It is an extremely embarrassing situation for SLT and has mentioned above, if you are with a union, contact them immediately and get some support. If you have not had a proper induction, inform them of this also as this is a strong line of defence.

    If you are extremely distressed by all of this, contact the Education and Support Partnership and speak to someone there, or the Samaritans. When things go wrong in schools it is like the whole world is collapsing. I hope this is resolved soon and that you have learned that unless you are SLT, you always have to ask permission before making such decisions.
  17. theworm123

    theworm123 Lead commenter

    drek likes this.
  18. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    Some definitions of assault
    Grievous bodily harm - a blow that breaks a bone or causes a serious cut.
    Actual bodily harm - a blow that leaves a mark, this could even apply to removing some hair (but probably pulling it out not cutting it)
    Common assault - a push or some contact not leaving any bruising,
    (can even apply to words "I'm going to thump you" doesn't count here as I can't follow it through but would certainly count if you were in the same room as me and you believed that I would do it. Also I need to be bigger than you to do it.)

    All this is made worse by the fact that it's being done to a child in your care, as pointed out above.

    I hope you're in a union @mniakpr because this can be very serious if the Head and parents decide to get toxic about this. Sorry to be so bleak about it.
  19. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Sorry, OP, but acting out of what you thought were the best interests of the child (in both cases) isn't acceptable to many parents these days. They'll be looking for compensation or some sort of revenge. Your FT & HT will be sh!tting in their pants in case they get blamed.

    It's all about CYA these days - if you keep your job (& I'm afraid you may not), learn from this and don't do anything without getting your line manager to 'sign off' on it...
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  20. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Whilst I agree that snipping hair to loosen gunk is possibly something that requires parental permission, I also think it's relevant to remember that it was hair that was cut off, not a limb. As such, basic science dictates that it is more likely than not to grow back pretty quickly.
    Criminal assault, my posterior.
    bevdex, mothorchid and -myrtille- like this.

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