School-run escort admits ‘tapping’ handicapped child

Reporter:

Claire Gallagher

A SCHOOL escort from Flintshire ‘tapped’ a special needs child who was fighting with his brother in a minibus, an employment tribunal heard yesterday.

Margaret Parsons, of Ffordd Pennant, Mold, was dismissed by her employer Flintshire County Council for gross misconduct after the alleged incident in October 2007.

The tribunal held at Abergele heard Miss Parsons was only dismissed following a second incident in November 2007 when she allegedly hit the same child with a shoe.

Miss Parsons, now 72, worked as a school escort for about 14 years and the job involved accompanying special needs children to and from school in a taxi or minibus in the Flintshire area.

Miss Parsons was suspended from her job following a complaint from the child’s mother after the alleged incident on November 26, 2007.

Head of Regeneration at Flintshire County Council, David Michael Heggarty, told the tribunal the special needs youngster, referred to as ‘child c’ during the hearing, was “severely autistic”.

“On November 26, 2007 there was a complaint from the mother of a special needs child who complained that Miss Parsons had been hitting the child on the foot with a shoe,” he said.

Miss Parsons was suspended pending an investigation, during which, the other incident in October was looked into. Mr Heggarty read a statement from a disciplinary meeting with Miss Parsons in January 2008.

During the meeting Miss Parsons spoke about the October incident and said child c was kicking his brother’s legs.

She said the brother was banging his own legs and that she “tapped” the back of child c’s hand.

On the same day Miss Parsons told the mother of the child that she had “tapped” the little boy on the hand for being naughty.

The hearing was told that on the day she “tapped” the child she told a friend, the child’s mother and her line manager about what she had done.

The mother did not mind her doing that, Mr Heggarty said.

Mr Heggarty said: “The morning after the shift she told a friend things had got on top of her and `I smacked him.’

“She said ‘I don’t make a habit of it’ and said she had never smacked him.”

Her solicitor, Tudor Williams, in making a claim for unfair dismissal, asked Mr Heggarty whether his decision to dismiss Miss Parsons was “over the top”.

Mr Heggarty replied: “The child has severe autism and is unable to speak. I believe the behaviour of Miss Parsons was completely inappropriate.”

He added: “Miss Parsons was employed to react to situations of that nature.
“We would expect that the children were protected from themselves and others.”

Mr Williams said Miss Parsons had “no alternative but to prevent one child being assaulted by his brother”.

He said: “She was seatbelted and had to intervene to stop the attack continuing.”
Miss Parsons was paid 12 weeks notice of termination.

Mr Heggarty added: “There were some mitigating factors. There was a belief on behalf of Miss Parsons that she had been given permission to slap.

"She also reported it to a line manager but it hadn’t been followed up.”

The hearing is expected to finish today.

See full story in the Leader

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