Perth educator accused of harming children says she’s been made a scapegoat
An early childhood educator has faced Perth Magistrates Court on 33 charges of assaulting children in the course of her employment at a Goodstart Early Learning service in a northern suburb of Perth.
Her lawyer claims the educator is “a scapegoat for a flawed investigation”, and that the incidents that resulted in the children becoming injured were both well documented and accidental.
The charges relate to 22 children at the service who returned home with scratches on their faces, the court heard, with six of the children giving witness interviews in relation to the allegations.
At the time of the alleged incidents, the children were aged between three and four years. The prosecution has argued that the scratches were not present when the children were dropped off at the service, and that an expert has testified “were more likely to have been inflicted by an adult”.
Key to the prosecution case is that the educator was “always present or near the child” when the scratches were occurring, and that the injuries did not occur when the educator wasn’t working or was away from the centre.
During proceedings the court heard that the educator participated in a four-and-a-half-hour interview with police during which she claimed the injuries to the children were caused by other children or play equipment, something the prosecutor said was “implausible” and “not reasonable”.
The educator has denied the allegations, and her lawyer says she has an exceptional history as an educator, with incident reports in relation to the scratches being described by the educator and other workers as being caused by another child or play equipment.
Speaking on behalf of her client, the educator’s lawyer said the allegations came about as a result of growing frustrations amongst parents and fellow educators about the scratches, leaving the manager in need of “someone to blame” and the educator becoming the focus as a result.
“[The manager] never witnessed (the educator) scratch any child, nor did any other educator, parent or child,” the lawyer said.
“[The manager] began to create a false narrative about (the educator) because she suffered anxiety and depression. She targeted (the educator) and began to exclude other conclusions.”
Additionally, the lawyer discounted the children’s recollection of events, describing their interviews as “confused, uncertain and lacking in detail”.
She said one child claimed an invisible person caused the scratches, while another told the interviewer “like my mum told me this”.
The trial will continue for a number of weeks, with parents of the children impacted and the service manager expected to be called as witnesses. The children involved will also be called to give evidence, which will be conducted via video link as they are vulnerable witnesses.
Goodstart was contacted for comment but is unable to comment on this story as the case is currently before the Court.
To access additional coverage of this story, as prepared by the ABC, see here.
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