Teacher given two-year ban after head-butting pupil

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A former teacher who head-butted a pupil in class has been banned from teaching for at least two years, despite a disciplinary panel recommending that he should face no punishment.

The ban was imposed on art teacher Mark Lonnie, 53, following an assault on the pupil at Wilds Lodge School in Empingham, a residential school for pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, in May 2009.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership professional conduct panel found that, whilst employed at the school, Lonnie received a police caution for an offence of common assault, committed against a pupil at the school.

Lonnie said he was teaching a class of pupils, including pupil A, in the art room at the school when there was an incident between pupil A and another pupil, which resulted in pupil A becoming very angry and Lonnie asking him to leave the classroom.

The pupil left the room but re-entered and subjected Lonnie to “verbal abuse”.

The panel stated: “Pupil A pushed Mr Lonnie in the chest using both of his hands, in response, Mr Lonnie head-butted pupil A. Pupil A sustained a bloodied mouth and a chipped tooth.”

The disciplinary panel findings said that Lonnie breached teaching standards and was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct. However, they added that he was not considered to pose a threat to pupils and was not a violent, confrontational man.

The findings said that what happened was a “spontaneous reaction in a one off, extreme situation” and that he acted “under a serious threat to his physical well-being”.

The panel said there were no previous or subsequent concerns regarding his conduct and they did not consider it was in the public interest to ban him from the country’s classrooms.

But giving the final decision on behalf of the Secretary of State, NCTL official Paul Heathcote said: “The behaviour involved head-butting a pupil on the school’s premises and whilst there is a level of mitigation evidenced, Mr Lonnie had been trained in appropriate techniques to manage such behaviour at this and other schools. He should have been aware of techniques to de-escalate the situation.”

Mr Heathcote said the panel had “not sufficiently balanced the mitigation with the level of violence”.

He banned Lonnie from teaching in any school, sixth form college or children’s home but said because of the “considerable mitigation offered”, he could apply to have it lifted in June 2016.

He said: “This will allow him a further period to reflect on his actions and evidence appropriate levels of insight.”

Lonnie joined the school in December 2007, but his contract was terminated in June 2009. He has the right to appeal to the High Court against the ban.