Illawarra Sports High teacher Despina Haise charged over alleged assault of female student

Accused: Illawarra Sports High teacher Despina Haise leaves Wollongong courthouse on Wednesday. She has pleaded not guilty to assaulting a student.

Accused: Illawarra Sports High teacher Despina Haise leaves Wollongong courthouse on Wednesday. She has pleaded not guilty to assaulting a student.

An Illawarra school teacher has faced court accused of assaulting a student amid allegations she grabbed a teenage girl around the throat during school hours.

Despina Haise, a music teacher at Berkeley’s Illawarra Sports High, was charged with common assault stemming from the May 27, 2016 incident, which allegedly occurred after she caught the student and a friend in an out-of-bounds area inside school grounds.

Haise has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The alleged victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday afternoon that the pair were walking between classrooms when they entered an out-of-bounds area near Haise’s classroom.

The teen said Haise asked the girls what they were doing, prompting them to reply “nothing” and continue walking.

The teen claimed Haise walked up behind her, grabbed her school jacket with one hand and her throat with the other.

“She grabbed my jacket with one of her arms, I can’t remember [which one]...she pinned me against the wall and said ‘what are you girls doing’,” the teen said.

“She had one of her hands on your neck….was the skin on her hands against the skin on your neck?” police prosecutor Ben Bragger asked the teen.

“Yes,” she replied.

The teen denied she was exaggerating about the incident during cross-examination by Haise’s lawyer, Miranda Moody.

“At no point did Ms Haise put her hand on your neck, she never had you up against a wall...,” Ms Moody said, suggesting the girl wasn’t being truthful in her account of what happened.

“I disagree,” the teen replied.

Meantime, the girl’s friend told the court she remembered seeing Haise grab the alleged victim’s jacket “near the neck” and recalled seeing red marks on the teen’s neck afterwards, however she denied seeing Haise hold the teen by the throat at all or push her against a wall.

The alleged incident was reported to other teachers a short time later.

The mother of the alleged victim said she noticed “red welt marks” on her daughter’s neck when she got home that afternoon and photographed them, saying her daughter told her they were the result of being “held against the wall” by Haise.

The case was adjourned to January 8 for further hearing.

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