Parents of vulnerable children assaulted by a teacher speak out

The parents of vulnerable children abused by a teacher have spoken to ITV Border about the impact it's had on them.

Linda McCall was convicted in May of assaulting five children with additional needs over a 14 month period. She will be sentenced in July.

Scottish Borders Council says an independent inquiry will be held into how complaints about her behaviour were handled at the time, after the parents of her victims accused the local authority of 'covering up' what was going on.

Last month Mrs McCall, 60, was found guilty at Selkirk Sheriff Court of five charges of assaulting five children, and one count of threatening or abusive behaviour between August 2016 and October 2017.

The victims were aged between five and seven at the time. They are autistic, and largely non-verbal.

Their parents say they believe this enabled McCall to “get away” with what she was doing.They also say they feel “failed” by Scottish Borders Council who they say “swept it under the carpet.”

The parents who spoke to ITV Border said they asked the school multiple times about why their children were so upset, but say they were told repeatedly that there was nothing to worry about.

One parent said their child would cry every morning before school, hiding theiruniform and running away to avoid getting into the taxi. She told us: "Now, I realise he was trying to tell me something."

Another told us how Linda McCall ‘pulled’ her son across the classroom, “screamed in his face” and “mimicked” him crying.

“She [seized] him by the head and body and was pulling him over the classroom, screaming in his face,” said one parent.

“He’s non verbal so he was really upset by this, so he was crying really violently, horribly crying. And she was mimicking him.”

Another told us, “She screamed in his face and pushed him up against the wall whereanother member of staff had to walk across from the other end of the room to intervene.

"He was very upset, very distressed, he had bruises all over his back, she dragged him from one end of the classroom to the other by his jumper, he had red marks around his neck from the clothing she was pulling the clothing that tight.”

McCall carried out her assaults between August 2016 and October 2017, and parents told us they became aware of rumours beginning to circulate during that time.

One parent said she was told near the end of 2017 that McCall was placed on leave, but wasn’t told why.

And in a document obtained by ITV Border from 2018, one mother was given assurancesthat the allegations being made did not affect her son “in any way."

Scottish Borders Council conducted their own internal investigation into allegations against McCall, but the email states that no further action was taken.

The parents say they believe the council tried to “cover up” what was going on, and failed to protect their children.

They told us they were informed of what was going on by other school staff members, who said they had made statements about what was happening but were "concerned nothing was being done."

They enlisted the help of their local MSP Christine Grahame who helped them push foranswers, and justice.

Another parent says she feels ‘let down’ by Scottish Borders Council. “It was them - it wasn’t just Mrs McCall, it’s how they handled it that was so wrong, their child protection procedures are not robust, if this can happen to 6 special needs kids over a year 14 months long period.

“They've not kept our children safe, we expect them to be sent to school and to be kept safe.

“And I think this has been covered up right from start to finish for whatever reason and that'll come out in the inquiry I'm sure, so either they need other people working there or they need a review, absolutely, it's rotten to the core what's happened.”

Scottish Borders Council is now launching an independent inquiry into how allegationsagainst McCall were handled at the time.

Credit: ITV News

Chief Executive Netta Meadows said: “The welfare and safety of our young people is at the very heart of everything that we do. Therefore, as Head of Paid Service, I feel it is important to fully understand what has occurred.

“Following discussions with the Leader and the Convener, I am therefore instigating anindependent Inquiry into how the Council dealt with the concerns which were raised. This process will firstly require us to identify a suitable individual to carry out the work.

“I will bring a report to Council in June which will provide details on the scope of the investigation together with an expected timescale for its conclusion.

“Separately to this, I am seeking an independent review of the provision of education and of the practices followed at our complex needs settings.”

The parents say they welcome this development and hope to finally get answers to why this went undetected for so long. They are now launching civil proceedings against the local authority.

They say their children are still suffering from the treatment that was inflicted on them, at the hands of someone who was meant to care for them.

“I put my hand above him to get something out of a cupboard and he flinches, he shouldn't know anything about violence, anyone hitting him.

“Linda has effectively taken his innocence away which breaks my heart because I think Ishould've been there to protect him and I wasn’t, it's hard to get over something like that.”

“He’s not the same little boy that he was,” said another. “He used to be a happy, funny, giggly little boy, now he's withdrawn, he's anxious, he's paranoid something’s going to happen to him.

“We need to make sure that lessons are learned and this cannot happen again to any child or any family.”