A teacher that headbutts a student, particularly if the incident was deemed to warrant a criminal record, should never teach again! How teachers like this one managed to avoid such a sanction baffles me:
A teacher who violently assaulted a child in the classroom was able to continue working despite being given a criminal record for the attack, The Independent can reveal.
Mark Lonnie, 53, headbutted the boy so hard he suffered a chipped tooth and a bloodied mouth and nose, yet the teacher has been able to work for five years after the incident and was cleared last month to resume teaching.
UPDATE: Reader ArtyMiss sets the record (and me) straight about errors in the reporting of this case and responds to my words of outrage by offering some understanding as to why and how the incident took place as well as providing a character reference for Mr. Lonnie:
Hello Michael… in response, let me tell you the truth about teachers ‘like this one’, or more specifically this one in particular, and perhaps you will be less baffled. Mark Lonnie had an exemplary teaching career up until this incident. He dedicated his career to teaching the ‘unteachable’… working with teenagers who had been permanently excluded from mainstream education as their levels of behaviour and violence were too extreme. So they end up in SEBD state or residential schools or secure units. During his career he suffered various injuries including broken ribs on 4 separate occasions, punches, kicks, black eye, split lip, spat at, bitten etc etc…. all part of the job in such educational settings. The incident in question occurred in this environment with a youth with a history of violent conduct and assault. The photograph on the Independent web page is deliberately misleading as it depicts a small primary age child looking like they are hiding or crying at a desk. It is highly inaccurate and emotive and likely to prejudice any reader. At this moment the Press Complaints Commission are investigating the Independent newspaper over the untruth, inaccuracies and bias of this article.
Mr Lonnie, was attacked in the classroom, in 2009 ,by a 15/16 year old youth, physically larger than him, with a history of violent behaviour who was threatening to kill him at the time.. The teacher had already stepped in to protect another student from a racist attack by this youth and had told him to leave the classroom. As he was calming the class again, the youth suddenly burst back into the room and assaulted Mr Lonnie, shouting abuse, threatening to kill him and then physically assaulted him first. The same youth had attacked another member of staff a few days earlier and it had taken 3 adult males to restrain him… something this teacher was aware of. All official training for restraining violent students requires 2 members of staff working in a team together. This teacher was alone and cornered in the room by a youth, physically larger than him, with his back literally against a wall, and with all means of escape blocked other than forward, no support staff to help, already assaulted once and fearing further serious attack, he struck out in self-defence, clashing heads with his attacker. For the article to describe this as happening when ” when Mr Lonnie lost his temper when a boy in his art class started misbehaving” is decidedly underpaying the seriousness of the incident.
The article states that ” Mr Lonnie was arrested” -this is untrue too. He went on 2 occasions voluntarily to a police station in the weeks after the incident, first to be interviewed and second to naïvely accept a caution for the affray (the criminal record of the headline), as the youths tooth got chipped.
This case was flagged up due to changes in the law since 2012, and heard at a hearing in public session, at which I was present as an observer. It is a matter of public record (on the NCTL website where the journalist took his story from ) that in the Professional Conduct Panels opinion, after listening to evidence, and background and testimonies that this teacher
>acted spontaneously in “a one off, extreme situation”
>that his “actions were not deliberate”
>and that finding himself already threatened and assaulted first, anticipating more violence “He acted under genuine fear that an attack was imminent”
>and “considered Mr Lonnie to have been acting under duress”
>and “he was under threat from a pupil who was larger physically than him” >and “he did not have the appropriate support”
To make no mention of any of these facts of the case is a distortion of the truth and likely to mislead any reader. The decision document this article is based on states the Panel “was satisfied that Mr Lonnie is not a violent, confrontational man” and posed “no threat”.
The article headline and first paragraph mention “the teacher has been able to work for five years after the incident” – this is misleading as it would lead any reader to assume he had just continued as a teacher all those years. He was devastated by this incident and for 4 years following this was mostly unemployed and not eligible for any social security benefits, with short periods of minimum wage manual work in warehouses and cleaning jobs, had to move home, declare bankrupt, unable to provide for his own family. Again, the Panel make mention of this in their recommendations “Mr Lonnie has already experienced a significant period in which he was unable to work as a teacher whilst the DBS or predecessor bodies concluded their investigations”.
To state that “Michael Gove has now stepped in to overrule the decision” is misleading. These decisions are made by a Decision Maker… in this case Paul Heathcote…who acts on behalf of the Secretary of State’s office. To suggest that it is so important that Gove personally reads over these cases and steps in is, just sensationalism for the sake of the story. Although, the Education Departments sound bites are in full flow at the moment, with an election due next year, so who knows what political machinations are at work.
In conclusion articles like this present a heavily loaded, distorted version of a set of facts and will cause a prejudiced view of this teacher in anyone who doesn’t know him personally, or the true circumstances of the case. It has been a traumatic 5 years for this teacher, and everyone connected with this case is shocked at the overturning of the Panels decision. All the judgemental media has caused severe emotional distress and embarrassment for Mark and his family at an already stressful time. He had only returned into supply teaching in 2013, this time in mainstream, and was really enjoying being able to teach again, with students who actually behaved in classrooms. He was also getting brilliant reports back from these new schools . But now, one man in the governments Education Department, who didn’t even attend the hearing, has overturned the right and fair decision of the Panel… how is this even justice? So this teacher has now lost his supply job as the Prohibition Order has immediate effect. He hasn’t even been able to go into school and say his goodbyes to his colleagues and the students, who are left in the middle of projects and exam work without their teacher. .In particular this ‘Independent’ article, and the spreading of it on social media, will impact negatively on any future work prospects, even outside of teaching as he has been presented in the press and all over the internet as a violent attacker of a young school child. The fact that such a biased poor quality article was published by a national newspaper is distressing enough but the fact that it was published during the 28 day window in which Marks teaching union has the opportunity to appeal to the High Court to contest the Order is a disgrace.
As a teacher who has always been passionate in his profession about affording a second chance to those written off by society it is upsetting that the same compassion is in such short supply to him now. I would ask anyone, now you know the facts, to put yourself in this teachers shoes that day and tell me how much better you would have handled this. I have years of experience working in a senior school setting with volatile students and have been physically injured when furniture is thrown or students fight and lash out but I’m not sure how I would react if directly targeted in a physical attack. When asked at the hearing what he would do if attacked in future his answer was that he would just curl up and take a beating. Is this right? Is this what it has come to in our school system? Only earlier this year a teacher was tragically stabbed to death by a student, in front of her class in a mainstream school. It begs the question that had she had any chance to strike her attacker and escape and be alive today… would she possibly be banned from teaching for injuring him? Perhaps a better angle for a story might be to raise the subject of increasing levels of violence towards staff in the classroom. I see you are in Australia, so maybe it is different there but in the UK it is a serious issue. The punishment meted out to this teacher for a split second reaction in a seriously compromised extreme situation is beyond what is fair or reasonable. Carrying a caution on record for the next 99 years, yes they last for 99 years, is stigma enough. The Panel recognised this and the mitigation in this case lead them to make their decision. To have this chance snatched away and then to be vilified and misrepresented in the media is a heavy burden to bear. Please do not add further to this injustice by spreading press misinformation about a fellow teacher on web education forums and blogs etc. One day, heaven forbid, it could be you being judged…
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