Teacher Banned From Chaperoning Children

A school teacher who was cleared by a court of assaulting a pupil claims to have been offered her job back, but is banned from chaperoning her own grandchildren.

Judi Sunderland, 57, who has 33 years’ teaching experience, was cleared of criminal charges after restraining a 13-year-old boy in a corridor in December 2003 at Immanuel CE Community College, Bradford, West Yorkshire. However, governors at the college have now ruled that she did assault the pupil but can return to work.

Mrs Sunderland, who decided to resign last week rather than return to the school, has been dealt another blow by being refused a professional licence to chaperone children. She said: “I am incensed. I have done nothing wrong. I don’t know how the governors can find me guilty when the court said there was no case to answer.”

The school’s disciplinary hearing against her took place in July 2005 when she was told that the governors decided she had assaulted the boy. Mrs Sunderland appealed and a different panel of governors came to the same conclusion in January.

A spokesman for Education Bradford said: “Legislation required the local authority to licence ‘suitable’ people as chaperones. The licence would allow the holder to chaperone any child, not only family members. Mrs Sunderland was refused a professional licence to chaperone children.”

Mrs Sunderland questioned the logic of her being allowed to teach children, but not allowed to serve as a chaperone to them. She added: “It is the final insult. There are lots of things I want to do in retirement which are people-based. I may want to volunteer in my local primary school but will I be prevented from doing that?”

Three of her eight grandchildren are actors and have to be accompanied by a parent or an approved person when they are working. Mrs Sunderland’s problems began when she intervened in a confrontation between the boy and a member of staff. She claims the boy swore and kicked her before trying to run away and, fearing what he might do to himself and others, she put her arms around him before taking him into her office.

When the case went to court 18 months after the incident, it was thrown out on several grounds including doubt on the character of her accuser, who had a conviction for indecent assault.

District Judge David Thomas told her at the time: “The only good thing to come out of it is that the matter is dismissed. You can leave without a stain on your character.”