Halifax school girl goaded and ridiculed by teacher and teaching assistant for five months, court told

Deborah McDonald, left, and Rachael Regan are charged with cruelty to a child. Picture Ross Parry
Deborah McDonald, left, and Rachael Regan are charged with cruelty to a child. Picture Ross Parry

An embarrassed child was goaded with a biscuit by her teachers as fellow pupils laughed, a classroom assistant told a court jury today.

Halifax primary school teacher Deborah McDonald and teaching assistant Rachael Regan are also alleged to have taped the youngster to a chair during a five month long campaign of ridicule.

McDonald, 41, of Birks Hall Terrace, Halifax, and Regan, 43, of Cousin Lane, Illingworth, Halifax, are accused of 10 counts of cruelty. They have denied the charges.

The trial at Bradford Crown Court heard today from support assistants at the school who told the jury that the child smiled in embarrassment as she was “singling out” by her classroom teachers.

The court heard how the youngster was “teased” by her teachers as her peers laughed.

“[The child] was teased by them [Regan and McDonald] as everyone ate biscuits but [the girl] did not get one because she had not done her homework. They were saying how delicious the biscuits were,” the support assistant told the court.

She said the “red in the face” child, who was smiling at the time, was embarrassed.

Prosecutor Simon Waley asked the support assistant, who gave her evidence via video link, if she recalled an incident involving a photograph of the child on the classroom display wall.

“Yes. A picture of her was put on the whiteboard. She was really proud that her picture was there. This day, she was being excitable. Miss Regan took the picture down and ripped it up into pieces infront of her,” she told the court.

The woman said she witnessed Regan tape Post-it notes to the child thumbs to prevent her from sucking them; heard the defendants call the child by an abbreviation of her surname; and saw her being made to stand on a desk with her ‘too big’ pumps tied to her legs with string, as children laughed.

She described the defendants’ actions towards the child as “negative attention” in which they “ridculed” her.

“I remember Miss McDonald taking the doll off of her. She had a look of disgust on her face as she opened her drawer and threw the doll in and shut the drawer with her foot,” the support worker told the court.

The Disney doll - a present from her grandfather - was placed out of reach of the child on the metal part of an overhead projector as the child tried to jump for it whilst her classmates laughed, the court heard.

On the day the child was allegedly taped to her chair, for approximately ten minutes, both witnesses say they saw the child had tape wrapped around her arms and to the chair but one could not say if the Sellotape went around the back of her chair.

“The children were excitable - there was snow outside and they were excited to go out to play. I saw Miss Regan go to the window sill, get the tape, walk over to the girl and wrap it around her and the chair,” the classroom support worker told the court.

Mr Waley asked the witness where McDonald was when the alleged incident took place. The witness replied that ‘Miss MacD’ was at her desk which was adjoined to the child’s.

One witness, who no longer works at the school, said the tape looked tight and appeared as though it had been bound more than once, the court heard.

She said: “Miss Regan came into my classroom and said something along the lines of ‘look what we’ve done’.”

She told the court she believed McDonald, who had given her a copy of a calendar with pictures and captions of the child, was “taking the mickey” out of the child and said she saw McDonald kicked the chair of the child who was visibly “shocked” at the time.

Defence barrister for McDonald, Steven Crossley, showed a number of pictures of the child taken on a school trip and in the classroom showing the child smiling and working with the teachers as well as “sucking her thumb” and “twiddling her hair.”

He suggested that McDonald placed her hand on the chair and pushed the chair forecefully and shouted “no” to prevent the child from carrying out the dangerous act of swinging on her chair.

The witness replied: “She did not use her hand, she kicked it [the chair].”

Regan’s defence barrister Tina Landale, in cross examination, said: “Did you tell the police you had no qualifications and said ‘I’m just a mum’?” The support worker replied “yes”.

Mrs Landale asked her whether it was right that children had got a biscuit for completing their homework and the girl had not done this; she replied “yes”.

“The photo of the girl had been put up to reward good behaviour. Was it taken down because of disruptive behaviour?” Mrs Landale asked the teaching assistant who replied “yes”.

Regan’s defence barrister challenged the support worker’s recollection of events on the day of the Sellotape incident: “Did you not say your focus was on the little boy you were supporting?” Mrs Lansdale asked her.

In cross examination Mrs Landale asked the teaching assistant why it took her a year and a half to report the allegations to police.

Mr Waley asked why the witness did not initially disclose the ‘biscuit incident’ to police and why she said the girl was ‘smiling’ throughout the time she was Sellotaped to the chair?

The tearful woman said she was told by her manager to keep her account brief and said she was fearful she would lose her job for being a ‘whistleblower’.

The case continues.