When did the teachers stop hitting the students?

Judge acquits teacher after scramble with students

Teacher A hits the then twelve-year-old student in the face, Teacher B tries to keep him down in the scramble. These are scenes that happened in March of last year on a street in the Lake Constance district and have now dealt with the district court in Überlingen. The two teachers were on a school trip with a total of six children. Teacher B was behind the wheel of the minibus. In the interior there was an argument between teacher A and the twelve-year-old about his behavior while driving. The boy refused to buckle up, pulled another student's seat belt from behind, and hit a water bottle that the student was trying to drink from. According to the educators, the twelve-year-old completely lost his temper, became loud and refused to get out with teacher A. Teacher B then stopped the vehicle. Together, the educators took the student out of the minibus and fixed him so that on the one hand he could calm down and on the other hand not hurt the other students. In school, fixing, holding on to the upper body and legs, is within the scope of the possibilities for aggressive students. However, the measure was followed by a scuffle on the day in question, as a result of which the public prosecutor's office charged the teachers with jointly serious bodily harm.

Judge Alexander von Kennel acquitted the men. The hearing, however, was characterized by testimony that differed greatly from one another. While the teachers described the student, who is said to weigh almost 100 kilograms, as physically superior and extremely problematic, three of the eleven witnesses painted a completely different picture: the picture of two adults beating and kicking a child as if from their senses. The two construction workers and the driver had initially observed the confrontation from a distance, approached the group and finally called the police. "I've only seen something like this once in my life," said one of the construction workers and continued: "If a child is so mentally ill, you have to transport it on your own." The teachers punched and kicked their fists, said his colleague. "It was a disaster," said the construction worker. The teachers entered the child with a brutality "that I have never seen before," said the driver. "It went so far that I was honestly afraid that they would kill him," he said in court.

How often the twelve-year-old at the time, who was no longer at school and also did not take part in the hearing, was detained by the teachers, and where this happened around the minibus, and in what order, could not be conclusively clarified. But it must have happened at least twice and at most three times. Teacher A said, "He couldn't be calmed down. He was kind of so upset." In the field adjacent to the road, the student grabbed a fist-sized stone and wanted to throw it at Teacher A. This defended himself with at least one punch, which he also conceded before the district court.

Teacher B, who says he was a confidante for the boy before and after the incident, sees the reasons for his aggressiveness in the past: The boy grew up with a lot of violence on the part of his father. As a result, the school was confronted with an "unpredictable boy", sometimes friendly, sometimes aggressive. Teacher A said the student needed another school. There were incidents several times a week. The other children would have been afraid of him. The situation a year ago rocked extremely, said teacher B. He had not reported the attempted stone throw in his interrogation, but considered it plausible in court. "He has thrown stones several times," said the teacher of the twelve-year-old. A teacher from the college, who had already got a stone on his head and bled, explained at the hearing: "It was a sign of the hardship he was in." The statements of the teachers and the former headmaster, who also testified, were supported by the students surveyed. In the end, the medical certificate, which gave information about redness and abrasions on the left half of the face and on one hand, as well as bruises on both temples, spoke against the descriptions of the construction workers and the driver. The twelve-year-old had been in the hospital for 24 hours with a suspected concussion. Judge Alexander von Kennel stated in his reason for the acquittal that the boy's injuries would have been much more serious if the descriptions of the witnesses had been correct. He did not comply with the public prosecutor's request that the teachers be sentenced to fines of 7,000 euros each. Von Kennel saw it as proven that the student "took a stone in the area of ​​the field to throw it". That speaks in favor of teacher A. The twelve-year-old was also known to be dangerous. The judge further stated that Teacher B had not stepped forward as he had been accused of. Rather, he held the boy on the ground to end the physical argument. The events are covered by the self-defense paragraph. Regarding the witnesses, von Kennel said: "These are all witnesses who told the truth from their point of view." From 100 meters, however, it seems questionable to him whether to decide whether someone will enter or hold someone. "They were in a dire situation that was unique to them," von Kennel admitted to the witnesses. Killing would have looked different, according to the magistrate. Teacher A responded with tears to the acquittal.


"The right to self-defense also applies to teachers and students in school"

Thomas Boehm is a lecturer for school law and legal studies at the Institute for Teacher Training in Essen-Werden and author of the book "No, you are not going to the toilet now - What teachers are allowed to do".

Mr. Böhm, a teacher is not allowed to hit a student. But can he act like teacher A in this case out of self-defense?

The right to self-defense naturally also applies to teachers and students in school. There is no compulsory service that would require teachers to refrain from physical resistance in the event of a physical attack on a student.

For the twelve-year-old at school, fixation occurred more often in situations in which he could be dangerous to himself and others. What went wrong on the school trip?

If the teachers had known beforehand what was going to go wrong, they would probably not have taken the student with them on the excursion. However, the behavior of the student was unpredictable. A retrospective assessment, if one knows the further events, is inadmissible in supervisory situations. It is also not obvious how teachers could have interrupted student behavior early on, but even if such a possibility had existed, it would not hold responsibility for the student's subsequent behavior.

Should the teachers have behaved differently when the repeated holding on did not seem to work?

What other promising courses of action would the teachers have had? They could not continue the journey with a student who was endangering themselves or others. But they also had to fulfill their duty of supervision and could not leave the student to himself after he was no longer on the bus. Trying to hold the student on the floor was a good one.

How do you explain the fact that the teachers and students evidently experienced very different things than the three witnesses who reported numerous punches and kicks during the hearing?

As the court found, the witnesses truthfully reported what they believed they had seen. They observed an event from a great distance, the history and context of which they did not know. In addition, they perceived the process from a certain perspective and emotionally touched. The facts established by a doctor's certificate and the descriptions of the witnesses observing in close proximity and those involved form a more reliable basis for decision-making.

Do you think the acquittal is justified?

I find the legal justification and assessment of the evidence very convincing and consider the acquittal to be correct.

Should the two educators stop working as teachers?

No, they have not violated criminal law or their official duties. The extremely difficult pedagogical situation and the considerable burden of criminal proceedings, even if it ended in an acquittal, are hopefully no reason for the two teachers to give up their profession.

What should teachers dare to do more?

Teachers should know and use their legal scope for decision-making to aggressively advocate considerate social behavior, the learning success of students and the individual and social value of education.

Published in the Überlingen department