A pre-school teacher had to wash a child’s mouth out with soap because she needed to follow through with a threat, a court has heard.
Lynn Euphemia Abraham, 59, is on trial at the Auckland District Court after denying 11 charges of assault against nine children.
She is accused of force-feeding children, putting sticky tape over a child’s mouth and smacking others on their hands, bottoms and thighs.
The alleged offending occurred while Abraham was a senior teacher and manager at Bright Minds, an early childhood education centre in Auckland’s Saint Johns.
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The centre, formerly owned by Wonderful Worlds Limited, was sold in October 2016 and is now under new management.
A woman who was a senior staff member at the childcare centre when Abraham was working there gave evidence on Wednesday.
Her name is suppressed.
The staff member said in April 2016, Abraham reported that she was struggling with the behaviour of a young child who was swearing.
Abraham threatened to wash the child’s mouth out with soap. She then did so because the child wouldn’t listen, the court heard.
The staff member became angry when Abraham reported her actions and said she was disappointed.
“She felt like the staff were really struggling with this child’s behaviour,” she said.
“She told me she had washed the child’s mouth out with soap. [I said] ‘at what level did you think that was OK?’
“Her response was she had threatened the child and she needed to follow through.”
Abraham had breached the centre’s behaviour policy and warned it could lead to dismissal, she said.
A meeting was arranged with Abraham and the child’s parents to discuss the incident.
The staff member said she requested that Abraham file an incident report, but Abraham failed to do so.
Abraham received a formal written warning some time after the incident, she said.
Defence lawyer Graeme Newell asked the staff member if she had seen or known of other concerns around Abraham’s behaviour.
The staff member said she did not.
Karyn Berman, a Ministry of Education worker, raised concerns about Abraham’s alleged assaults against children after hearing them from other staff members who were distressed.
In her evidence read in court, Berman said she “sensed things were off” at the centre but did not see firsthand Abraham striking a child.
Berman worked at the centre from 2015 to 2016 with a child who had learning difficulties.
She said she was shocked at what staff members were alleging and reported it to the ministry in less than a week.
A joint police and Child, Youth and Family investigation was then launched.
The trial, before a jury of seven men and five women, is expected to finish on Friday.