Teacher reprimanded for stabbing remark

A TEACHER at an Arlesey school who told a pupil that he wished he could stick a knife in her guts and twist it around to solve his problems has been reprimanded by the General Teaching Council.

Its professional conduct committee today (Monday) found Richard Knight guilty of “unacceptable professional conduct” while employed at Etonbury Middle School in 2008.

Committee chair Dominic Coughlin said that Mr Knight was returning to his classroom from the staff room and carrying a serrated-edged bread knife.

He added: “As he was doing so, he encountered Child A and Child B who were standing outside his classroom. Child A made a comment regarding the knife and, according to both children, Mr Knight responded with words to the effect that he wished he could stick it in her guts and twist it around as that would solve his problems.

“Mr Knight has denied throughout that he used those words. On his version, Child A asked him whether he was going to stab her and he responded, jokingly and with a smile on his face, by saying ‘don’t be silly but it would solve my problems’, or words to that effect.”

However, Mr Coughlin said that in all of the circumstances the committee “preferred the version of events given by Child A to that given by Mr Knight”.

He continued: “The words used by Mr Knight are, self-evidently, inappropriate. Indeed, Mr Knight accepts that even the words that he claims to have used were inappropriate.

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“However, whilst the words have the potential to be threatening, it seems clear that in the particular circumstances of this case they were not intended to be so and were not taken as such. Neither child makes any mention of feeling threatened; and, the evidence is that Child A was surprised and outraged, rather than distressed or threatened.

“However, the words used by Mr Knight towards Child A were totally unacceptable and had the potential to cause great distress to a child of lesser fortitude.”

He said that, in the school investigation that followed the incident, it was established that, on May 12, 2008, Mr Knight had taken a photograph of a group of boys in contravention of the school’s policy on the taking of photographs of pupils.

Mr Coughlin added: “He admitted having done so as the boys were ‘pulling funny faces’, and said that he was not aware of the policy but, nonetheless, accepted from the outset that it was inappropriate, and said that he had deleted the photographs.”

He said that the committee took into account Mr Knight’s previous good character, that this was an isolated incident and that, from the outset, he had expressed regret for behaving as he did.

Imposing a reprimand as the proportionate punishment, he said: “This reprimand will remain on the register for a period of two years and must be disclosed to a potential employer. This reprimand marks the fact that Mr Knight’s conduct has been unacceptable and may be taken into account in any future regulatory proceedings.”

Mr Knight, who no longer teaches at Etonbury, has the right of appeal to the High Court within 28 days.

After Monday’s hearing, Etonbury headteacher Dr Al Mistrano said: “I want to make it clear to all parents, pupils and members of staff that the school will not tolerate any sort of threatening behaviour and will always take appropriate action.

“This incident happened three years ago and was dealt with quickly by the school at the time in the form of dismissal and we fully support the GTC’s decision to reprimand this former member of staff.”

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