It would probably be fair to say that teachers do not rank highly in the public sympathy this week, which is unfortunate for this man.
Teacher Martin Davis was suspended for giving a lift home to a 17-year-old pupil who had forgotten his bus fare.
Mr. Davis, a maths and science supply teacher for 23 years and a father of two, was employed by an agency to give one-to-one support to boys with dyslexia in a Newcastle college.
One afternoon in November, one of his pupils approached him and said he had no money for the bus fare home; as he would be passing the boy’s house on his way home, Mr Davis offered him a lift.
“A week later one of the office staff at the college pulled me to one side, having heard about me giving the boy a lift, and said it was a stupid thing to do because I was opening myself to all sorts of allegations.
I said I was sorry and she just told me not to do it again, and that seemed to be the end of the matter.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Davis, it was not; the agency, presumably alerted by college staff, promptly removed him from his job there and suspended him without pay pending further investigation. Official statements have been produced and the words ‘safeguarding’ and ‘procedures’ bandied about in justification.
Career-wrecking events like this happen with depressing regularity, although in this case, at least, there is no question of malicious allegations by a pupil; in fact, according to Mr Davis, the boy concerned was ‘upset and angry’ about the dismissal.
Quite apart from the incongruity of applying child protection-inspired policies in this case – the boy was old enough to be in the army, or in full-time employment – I’m shocked by the lack of respect and trust for someone who has dedicated his working life to educating the next generation.
Mr Davis is an experienced teacher, whose background has been scrutinised by the usual CRB checks, yet the protocol treats him as a potential risk to the young man he offered to help. What’s more, one of the office staff at the college considered it acceptable to describe his action as ‘stupid’ and admonish him for it.
What would have happened, I wonder, had Mr Davis followed the approved course of action and the boy, walking home alone after dark, been attacked or met with an accident? It’s a matter of record that young men are far more likely than any other group to be victims of urban violence.
Sadly, I have no doubt that officialdom would shake its collective head in sorrow while affirming that Mr Davis had done the right thing, just as school policy these days requires teachers to stand by when one pupil attacks another rather than intervening and risking allegations of assault.
But had the boy failed to make it home that night, I have little doubt that Mr Davis would not have seen it that way. Teachers who want to stay in their jobs, like Caesar’s wife, have to be above suspicion these days.
Unfortunately that sometimes means being above compassion too.