Issues - Gender Bias - Female teacher tells girls to
A HIGHLAND teacher was yesterday convicted of
recruiting a group of primary school girls armed with rulers
to carry out classroom punishments on younger boys.
Avril Mackenzie used Primary Five girls to keep
Primary Four boys in check at the small village school.
Passing sentence, Sheriff Alasdair MacFadyen
told 55-year-old Mackenzie that she was the author of a system
that relied on violence.
Mackenzie denied five charges of assault between
1 August, 2002, and 30 June, 2003 - but she was found guilty
following a five-day trial at Dingwall Sheriff Court.
She was fined £750, but now faces losing
her job and possibly her pension as well as the prospect of
returning to her village community - which cannot be named
for legal reasons - in disgrace.
Earlier in the trial, seven girls and boys -
among them some of the victims of the assaults - told how
Mackenzie had instructed the slightly older girls to hit the
One child witness, who was eight at the time
of the incident told how he was hit every day for a week before
Another said the boys were hit for giggling,
talking in class and not doing what they were supposed to
One pupil, now aged 10, claimed three Primary
Five girls hit him when he failed to do his work, or if he
talked in class. Giving evidence herself, Mackenzie had claimed
that the children had "bent the truth", and added:
"I’m afraid some children just tell lies".
However, Sheriff MacFadyen decided that the
evidence of the children was "compelling and convincing"
and described Mackenzie’s claims as inconsistent.
Fiscal Roderick Urquhart said: "It is important
not to lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with children,
and the accused was their teacher, a figure of authority.
"The accused had set up the system, so
she was responsible morally and criminally."
Ruth Anderson, a defence agent, said that Mackenzie
has suffered medical problems such as stress and high blood
pressure "as a result, at least in part, of the case".
"Today will pale into insignificance compared
with the repercussions," she said. "I can’t
imagine for a moment that she’ll ever be allowed to
return to employment."
Giving evidence earlier in the case, Mackenzie
had said it was "heartbreaking" and "30 years
of work down the tubes."
Sentencing, Sheriff MacFadyen said: "Your
behaviour was quite unacceptable. When parents entrusted their
sons to you, they were entitled to expect they would not be
assaulted in the classroom. Equally, other parents did not
expect their daughters to receive instruction in the infliction
of pain on classmates."