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Help needed with gross misconduct allegation

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by emma_wales, Jan 13, 2020.

  1. emma_wales

    emma_wales New commenter

    My sister is a teacher in the uk, she used a nerf gun in class for a physics experiment and has been accused of firing the nerf at a students face one particular student who had previously falsely accused her of bullying. She is now facing a disciplinary meeting for gross misconduct. Is she likely to get fired ? She’s not currently a member of a union, any advice greatly appreciated. Can she join a union at the point she already needs help or advice ? I’m so worried for her she’s a great teacher and certainly not a bully. I’m just concerned as there do not seem to be any examples online of a teacher accused of gross misconduct keeping their job
  2. lovejoy_antiques

    lovejoy_antiques Occasional commenter

    Hi, unions don't tend to deal with pre-existing issues (otherwise nobody would ever join until they were in a pickle).

    If a student has made a false accusation before then hopefully this was documented at the time and will discredit her accuser. I'm assuming other students were present and they will have been asked for witness statements. So it will kind of depend on if the kids like her or if they are pals with the accuser. Sorry I'm not more positive but witness statements from students are often given too much credence rather than being taken with Siberia's net salt output!
    roman_eagle and pepper5 like this.
  3. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    The union won't help with something which happened before joining.

    Let's hope that the disciplinary panel give her a fair chance. If, unfortunately, the nerf did hit this student, it's going to be difficult to prove that this was an accident rather than aiming - although the prior false accusation may help, particularly if it was clear that it was fabrication (as opposed to a different perception of events). It might also be relevant whether the activity is something in the SoW, regularly undertaken, or a new one which perhaps should have been risk-assessed.
    phlogiston and Kartoshka like this.
  4. scienceteachasghost

    scienceteachasghost Lead commenter

    If it did hit this student, sorry to say, but the teacher should be a bit more careful (although having said that I once demoed orbits with a rather sizeable piece of blu tac on the end of a piece of string which came loose and smacked into the forehead of a Year 11 girl, luckily she saw it was an accident and forgave me!)

    If it didn't hit her, cant see why the school are making it an issue.

    I would have said its a risk assessment issue anyway, might be negligence but not misconduct? Nerf guns pack a punch but they are not going to kill anyone (a school I worked in had one for demos) - a warning should be more appropriate. Union? Too late if the incident occurs before joining (and most have a time you have to have been a member, say 14 days) before anything happens.
  5. Dorsetdreams

    Dorsetdreams Occasional commenter

    35 years ago, had a chunk of sodium (or was it potassium?) jump out of a dish of water onto a kids hand. Not my specialism. How different my life might have been if he wasn't a hard-ar*ed son-of-a-scaffolder.
  6. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    Your sister has made two unwise choices.
    The first was not to join a union after she has been falsely accused of bullying.

    The second was use a Nerf gun in lesson with the aforementioned lying child giving the turd a second chance to have pop. This the mendacious child has the benefit of learning where she went wrong and will most likely have been bullying those that would gainsay her version of events. Her 'friends' will back her up.

    The HT can decide on "balance of probabilities". A disciplinary meeting does not bode well for your sister. Do you have any solicitors who are friends or in the family? If you do call in a massive favour and ask them to sit in on meeting.

    In your "sister's shoes"I would be trying to find out if there is a bootleg video of the lessons. Students who make malicious allegations often get their friends to secretly video in lessons. This can spectacularly backfire on said students.

    Your sister's best chance is find a nice student and ask them what the state of play is. Should a student unwittingly forward a vid clip to your sister that exonerates her that would be a magnificent hoisting up of the liar by their own petard.

    I wish your "sister" the best of luck, she going to jolly well need it.
  7. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    The Union won't touch this, sorry. I agree with @afterdark - it was unwise of her not to join a Union after a previous incident.

    It was also pretty unwise not to run the use of a nerf gun by the HoD or HoF. If they suggested it, not the wisest thing to do.

    I'm also surprised that the school made no effort to change your sister's timetable or the student's after the previous incident. Which indicates that they perhaps do not see the student as the problem, or that this is an issue waiting to flare up again.

    I hope things turn out well, but I'm not hopeful. If this sounds harsh, well, not being in a union is a key issue here.
    pepper5 and grumpydogwoman like this.
  8. Penguin47

    Penguin47 New commenter

    I've got nothing to add, only that I am in similar circumstances and feel her frustration. I hope it resolves appropriately.

    No wonder people avoid teaching!
    pepper5 likes this.
  9. Dorsetdreams

    Dorsetdreams Occasional commenter

    I really wouldn't be so pessimistic. A nerf gun - like sold at Argos and John Lewis? A Physics teacher, female at that? Hopefully the school are just going through the motions.
    pepper5, Pomza and agathamorse like this.
  10. Morninglover

    Morninglover Lead commenter

    Why are some teachers not in a Union? It's often akin to a death wish.
  11. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    No kid would be allowed a nerf gun in school.
    And an adult even less.
    it is shaped like a gun, and it fires missiles freely, ie in any direction in which you point it, and as such it is a weapon.
    Yes, I know it is a toy. Yes, I know it fires lightweight plastic ended spongy stuff.
    Before I am lambasted for this conclusion,I've a hazy yet substantial memory of this being established elsewhere on these forums.
    And a fairly good knowledge of school policy which almost certainly would not allow a nerf gun to be brought to school.
    The gross misconduct will be based on the fact of bringing it into school and using it in a way which conveys quite clearly to the children that it is a fun and useful thing.
    Yet it is a weapon, because it looks like one and it fires stuff.
    The same applies to catapults, BB guns, plastic bows and arrows, trebuchets etc. They are weapons.

    Yes, yes,yes, I know a nerf gun is a toy.
    But in a public setting and in a position of responsibility, it is a weapon.

    All of this before even looking into the allegation of hitting a child.

    All of this precisely because of such allegations arriving.

    I think it was a bad mistake to attempt such a lesson.
    Your best bet is to find a reputable and professional source which recommends lessons are taught this way. There probably wont be one. But if there was one, it would be well placed to proffer it at the hearing.
    pepper5 and caress like this.
  12. yodaami2

    yodaami2 Lead commenter

    Can’t see it as gross misconduct. Just a silly mistake. But if the school wants to get rid I can see them using it.
    A good risk assessment would have avoided her problem.
    I can see if this went to tribunal they’d laugh their socks off.
    Unless of course, it hit and hurt the child.
    I can’t stress enough to all readers the importance of a risk assessment! Especially in this litigious world.
    Also join a union.
    This advice maybe a little late for your sister.
  13. Curae

    Curae Star commenter

    Very unlikely to lead to dismissal.
  14. a1976

    a1976 Occasional commenter

    Really, what good does it do?
    pepper5 likes this.
  15. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    what aspect of physics was she teaching? I can't think of a topic where a nerf gun would be useful.

    Is it on the scheme of work, was a risk assessment completed?

    She needs to show both pieces of paper.

    Is it hers or the schools? if it is the schools, what is the procedure for requisitioning it? And does the person she requisitioned it from have general risk assessment for its use?

    If she was following the scheme of work, using requisitioned school equipment in the expected way, according to the risk assessment, then she can't really be faulted.
    pepper5, agathamorse and sbkrobson like this.
  16. scienceteachasghost

    scienceteachasghost Lead commenter

    Nerf guns cam be useful to teach alpha particle scattering.
    Science departments will have a few things that could be used ad weapons in the wrong hands. Lasers for example. Food tech will have sharp knives. DT hammers. Kids could use many things as weapons if they wished, their own fists even!

    It's all about how they are managed. Lasers would not be left lying around for kids to abuse.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2020
  17. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    I have no idea what that means, but it sounds fun...
    Curae, agathamorse and Lalad like this.
  18. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    Nerf guns to show alpha particle scattering? I can't see how. And lasers? what sort of school are you in?
  19. Dave0301

    Dave0301 New commenter

    Any decent physics department will have lasers to demo optics at GCSE. I suspect that a lot of A Level students in schools complete experiments themselves using said lasers.

    Have you been watching too many old James Bond movies!?
    topquark, Curae, Pomza and 3 others like this.
  20. scienceteachasghost

    scienceteachasghost Lead commenter

    More like what sort of school are YOU in? Have you never peer observed a science colleague? Are you primary?

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