UK Teacher’s Plight Raises Questions on Discipline Process

William Stuart, a science teacher from Graham School in Scarborough, England, has been cleared of assault charges against a 15 year-old student, The Telegraph reports. Six months ago, Stuart, who has been teaching for 23 years, was arrested after one of Graham students made an allegation that Stuart pushed her to the floor after she refused his request to clean up the mess she and her friends made in the school cafeteria. Stuart denied pushing the girl, and according to him, it was she who took a swing after he blocked her path several times.

The judges in the case heard both versions of what happened. They also heard how the accuser already had a record of disciplinary problems and had already been suspended once that term. When he testified, Stuart said he had been using commonly accepted passive-control techniques like blocking the girl’s path in order to diffuse the situation while, at the same time, getting the students to follow his directions.

This Thursday, the judges sided fully with Stuart, acquitting him, and adding that the accuser’s prior behavioral issues had a negative impact on her credibility. Although this outcome was expected by Stuart’s supporters, they still questioned why the case got to the judicial stage at all, and why the police chose to pursue it in spite of the fact that an internal investigation of the incident found nothing amiss.

The arrest had a tremendous negative impact on Stuart and his family, the Yorkshire Post reports. He was suspended from his job and barred from school property which prevented him attending his daughter’s music recital.

After the case, Mr Stuart revealed how embarrassment forced him to stay in a caravan each morning to avoid answering questions about why he was not at school.

He said: “I took myself off every morning to stay on a local caravan park to give the impression I was going to work as I didn’t want to set tongues wagging.”

William Stuart is now at the center of a push for legislative reform, called Bill’s Law, that would keep teachers anonymous who have been accused of misconduct by students until they are convicted, an effort now taken up by his lawyer, Nick Turner and Graham Taylor, a best-selling author. Turner said that although the law currently protect the accuser, no such benefit is afforded the accused. As demonstrated by the Stuart case, the social ramifications of even an accusation that’s later proven groundless, can be devastating.

“We had a man with an unblemished career almost destroyed on the whim of a child and her parent with the help of the police. It was a typical 21st century case where it was politically correct to bring it.”