Parents furious after son is punched by teacher at South West school

A mum and dad are furious after a teacher was sacked with a warning for ‘hitting’ their severely autistic, non-verbal four-year-old at a primary school. Katie Waller and Daniel Turner are left shocked after their son came home with five red marks, including a few under each arm and one on his jawline.

They raised their concerns at Eden Park Primary and Nursery School in Brixham, Devon, after the incident on Friday, April 19. But the now ex-pupil’s parents are ‘disgusted’ that an investigation into the incident has led to the teacher receiving a ‘written letter’. warning’ – and nothing else.

They immediately reported it to the school and at a meeting a week later they were told that he had been ‘slapped on the back of the hand’ by a teacher. The school said it was a ‘soft blow’, but no explanation was given to Charlie’s parents for the red marks he came home with.

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Ofsted and the police have been informed of the incident.

Mr Turner, from Brixham, said: “I’m not happy with the action that has been taken – the teacher has not been punished, he has been given a warning? We know who the teacher is and we think he should be arrested – but the schools are protecting themselves and it’s sickening.”

Dan and Katie have now taken Charlie out of school, and the young boy is currently awaiting an education, health and care plan (EHCP) – which means he can hopefully go to Mayfield School in Torquay.

Although the blow did not leave a lasting impression, Dan says his son has been affected “emotionally and mentally” by the event.

Dan said: “Charlie has Global Developmental Delay, so his mental age is 12 months old.

“He is non-verbal and non-communicative, and when he was first diagnosed with autism he would pinch and scratch, but we got him out of that about a year and a half ago.

“But this week he hit me on the hand. He hasn’t done that in so long and I almost burst into tears.”

The incident occurred when Charlie was having a conversation with his one-on-one assigned teacher on April 19.

Dan explained: “Last Friday we were told that Charlie had been in the sensory room the Friday before – while he had a one-to-one.

“He must have been overstimulated and his one-on-one conversation calmed him down.

“Then suddenly another staff member comes into the room, and Charlie swiped at him to say, ‘Go away, you’re too close to me for comfort’. And then he was punched by the teacher.”

Dan says he thinks police are calling the teacher in question to the station for a “voluntary interview,” but the parents are calling for “more serious” action.

And he said he was far from satisfied with the outcome.

He added: “If it was Dom Dick and Harry they would have been arrested, but because they are teachers they are doing a volunteer interview.

“People need to be aware of this – it’s completely wrong. They just got a warning and it’s in their name and they’re going through training?

“What training will change your mind about hitting a child – it won’t correct a brain wave. Do they think a gentle slap is okay?

‘What happens if it’s a harder blow next time?

‘Even more frustrating are the inexplicable figures? We emailed the school when we found out and they knew all along that this had happened.

“The school was aware all week that my son was so disruptive – they should have told us an investigation was underway but they kept it from us.

‘I expected the school to call me to document what my son went through! But nothing.’

Dan says Charlie is very upset.

He added: “Charlie just wouldn’t go to school, he wouldn’t eat, he would spit up his medication – he would wake up in the middle of the night screaming and kicking.”

A letter sent to Katie by headteacher Benjamin Wallis, dated April 29, summarizes the conversation she had with Charlie about the incident and the school’s subsequent actions.

The letter said: “She shared in her own words that an employee ‘slapped Charlie on the back of the hand.’ [The one-to-one] informed you that this was immediately reported to the school principal who then reported this to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).

‘You were informed that as part of this process, events were again clarified with Charlie’s one-on-one meeting and the member of staff was spoken to.

“It was made clear to the staff member that the school does not accept or condone this behavior and that it was contrary to our policies and ways of working.

“It is important to note that the staff member did not dispute the allegation and was incredibly remorseful.

“In line with LADO advice, the staff member was given a written warning which will be included in his personal file and the school will provide further training.”

Details were also provided of a meeting Katie and Daniel had at school last Friday, April 26, including with the principal.

The letter continued: “The LADO confirmed that the school had taken all appropriate steps and that the incident did not meet the threshold to be considered a police or other matter. To clarify, the event was a ‘soft slap’ on the back of the hand.

“By clarifying this, we are not saying that we find this acceptable, and we still take this very seriously. However, it is to ensure that everyone is clear about the events of the incident.

“Even though the incident left no trace and Charlie was not upset at the time, it is still unacceptable and appropriate action has already been taken.

“The school sincerely apologizes that this has happened and hopes you know that we are taking this matter seriously and have followed all required processes, being open and honest at all stages.”

In a statement, Mr Wallis said: “We are aware of negative reports of an unfortunate event at school circulating on social media.”

“Eden Park Primary takes the safety of all children and staff very seriously.

“The event that occurred is very unfortunate and regrettable and has already been reported by the school to the appropriate authorities.

“So far, the authorities concerned have confirmed that the school has taken necessary steps to manage the matter.

“Staff and the school will be involved in any investigation and take the recommended steps.”

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