Bean Bags and Bean bag chairs have a multitude of uses in everyday life at home, work, and school. But a teacher in Wales seems to have found an entirely new use for this comfortable, ergonomic furniture. In 2011, a primary school teacher in Risca, Wales, was dismissed on seven charges of professional misconduct, one of which was for restraining a student with a giant bean bag.
According to officials at Ty Sign Primary School, Philip Meredith restrained one of his pupils for five minutes by covering him with a bean bag the size of a double bed and sitting on top of it.
A teaching assistant who worked in Mr. Meredith’s classroom, Ellen Sheldon, witnessed the event, and she testified before a professional conduct committee during the subsequent investigation. The child’s name has been withheld from the public to protect the identity of the child, and he was just referred to as Pupil A.
“There was a fight between Pupil A and another child,” stated Sheldon. “Pupil A was put into a restraint by Mr. Meredith onto the bean bag.”
“I didn’t see how he got from there to under the bean bag,” Sheldon continued. “I could see his feet kicking, and he was shouting, ‘Get off, get off.’ I would estimate he was under the bean bag for four to five minutes.”
“I’ve never had to deal with anything like this in my life, and I never want to deal with it again,” said Sheldon. “It’s made me feel ill.”
Sheldon was responsible for reporting Meredith to school officials in November 2011, but the incident with the giant bean bag is only one of seven charges he faced for actions taken against Pupil A and another student.
A second teaching assistant, Ann Marie Croker, testified that she had frequently witnessed Meredith bullying Pupil A, and it made her “very uncomfortable.” She accused the teacher of making the boy sit in the classroom’s thinking chair for 10 to 15 minutes at a time for behavior that did not justify such punishment.
“He was very emotional and upset as he couldn’t understand what he had done wrong,” Croker said. She went on to explain that the thinking chair was not meant to be used as a form of punishment. It was intended to give children who had misbehaved time to reflect on their actions.
“Mr. Meredith forced Pupil A to sit on the chair straight away when he arrived at school,” said Croker. “Pupil A had not misbehaved as he’d only just arrived. He grabbed pupil A by his left hand and pushed him to sit on the chair.”
Meredith was also accused of speaking to the 10-year-old boy “overly loudly” in situations where it was not necessary. “Mr. Meredith had a loud voice. He invaded pupil A’s personal space,” Croker testified. “He had very aggressive posture and went very close to his face and was speaking loudly.”
Meredith refuted this charge, however, claiming that he has a “naturally loud voice.”
During the initial hearing in 2011, Meredith was also accused of restraining Pupil A on the floor with his face held against the carpet. This action reportedly resulted in a red mark on the student’s arm. Meredith said that the boy was already on the floor, and he simply had to wrap himself around him to keep him calm.
A second student, Pupil B, was also said to have been victimized by Meredith. The teacher is accused of holding Pupil B by the front of his shirt and also of restraining him on the floor with his face on the carpet.
After hearing this testimony, the professional conduct committee suspended Meredith, and soon afterward, he was dismissed. The incidents all occurred in the two months after he was appointed to a new position that involved teaching a class filled with the school’s most difficult and demanding students.
Alison Dacey, the head teacher of the program, spoke in defense of Meredith. She said that the students displayed challenging behavior, and “unruly and violent behavior” was not uncommon.
After three years, Meredith was granted a hearing by the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) in Cardiff. He denied all of the charges, including restraining Pupil A with a giant bean bag. The GTCW found insufficient evidence to support the claims, and Meredith was cleared of all charges.
“I’m absolutely delighted and relieved to have been fully vindicated of all the unfair allegations against me,” said Meredith. “I sincerely hope now to be able to return to teaching.”