A SCHOOL janitor is suing for £50,000 after a string of sixth form pranks ended with her slipping on steps covered with Vaseline.
Linda Mary Gillie suffered head and leg injuries and needed hospital treatment as a result of the end-of-year “joke” at Galashiels Academy, Scottish Borders.
Lawyers for the 53-year-old allege there was a long history of practical jokes at the school.
It was reported the same year as the accident that an English teacher had been sprayed with sardines hidden in a hand-drier.
Mrs Gillie’s lawyers claim Scottish Borders Council staff did too little to stop sixth formers playing the pranks and Mrs Gillie was seriously hurt as a result.
But the council is fighting the case, denying knowledge of the previous incident and claiming sixth formers were on a trip to a theme park the day after the incident.
According to legal papers lodged at the Court of Session, Mrs Gillie was working as an assistant janitor at the school on May 12, 2009 when she was asked to clean up Vaseline.
Her lawyers state: “[She] was alerted by a teacher, Mrs Hall, to the presence of Vaseline which had been smeared on the banister of the staircase close to the school’s science department.
“The Vaseline had been placed there by sixth year pupils as a prank.
In addition there were condoms placed on door handles.
“Unbeknown to [Mrs Gillie] there was also Vaseline on the steps. She slipped on the Vaseline, falling downstairs suffering loss, injury and damage.”
After the accident she was taken to hospital, where she was diagnosed with mild head injury and generalised limb bruising, her lawyers say.
The janitor later had to have procedures under general anaesthetic to remove a fluid swelling in her left leg. She was left with a 12cm scar and unable to return to her previous job until October 2010.
Her lawyers continue: “At the said school the sixth year pupils habitually performed pranks in their last week of school.”
“In the years preceding the said accident, leaving sixth year pupils have thrown eggs and tomato ketchup at the school, placed sardines in lockers, left dirty nappies in the school, left fish in the library, put washing up liquid down the toilets and black boot polish on seats.”
Mrs Gillie is blaming the education authority for not doing more to halt the pranks.
The papers allege: “[the council] took no steps to discourage sixth year pupils from performing such pranks in the last week of school.”
The school did not introduce a hall monitor, claim they lawyers, and other schools in the area had discouraged sixth year pupils from attending school at the time to avoid pranks.
“On the date of [Mrs Gillie’s] accident many sixth year pupils had arrived at school without their uniform, were in Bermuda shorts and in buoyant mood.”
The authorities, they claim, were “accepting of the lack of uniform and took no steps to avoid pranks being performed by the sixth year pupils”.
They go on to say that, in the years after the accident, pranks were discouraged.
Instead, the school “arranged a barbecue and water fights in the last week of school so as to provide another outlet for the school leavers’ inclination to play pranks”.
But lawyers for the council say in the papers: “The circumstances of any incident on 12 May 2009 are not known and not admitted.”
They continue: “Pupils at the school had not previously performed any pranks of the nature narrated by the pursuer.
“The sixth year pupils were not expected to be in school that day. They had no classes.
“They were discouraged from attending school. If sixth year pupils were found to be on school premises on the day, they were asked to leave.”
The pupils went on a trip to M&D’s theme park the day after the accident, the court papers explain.
The council’s lawyers claim the £50,000 sought is “excessive” and say the nature and extent of the janitor’s injuries is “not known and not admitted”.
A spokesman for the council said: “I can confirm that this claim has been litigated. It would be inappropriate for us to comment any further.”
Mrs Gillie declined to comment on the case.
End-of-term pranks have caused chaos in other Scottish schools.
Earlier this year, bosses at a Midlothian Scottish school sent the entire sixth form home two days early – without warning – in order to stop them causing chaos with end-of-term pranks.
Senior staff at Dalkeith High School said they feared a threat to this year’s exams from high-spirited students, who have started food fights in the past.
In 2009 four pupils from Stewart’s Melville College in Edinburgh ran riot with paintball guns at nearby Mary Erskine School in an end-of-term prank.
The same year all 150 teens in the final year at Hutcheson’s Grammar School, Glasgow, were sent home after a deputy rector’s office was trashed just before exam leave.