Monday 21 August 2017

Sex pest forced teacher to quit job, court told

Tim Healy

A SECONDARY school teacher told the High Court yesterday she was sexually harassed and bullied over a four-year period by a male colleague.

Mary O'Toole claims fellow teacher Jim Mooney leered at her, inappropriately touched her, subjected her to verbal insults and demeaned her on a number of occasions between 1996 and 2000 at Tullamore College, Co Offaly.

She claims her employer, Offaly VEC, did nothing about her complaints about Mr Mooney and in 2001 she moved to another school.

Mrs O'Toole told the court that Mr Mooney would put his hands on her back in the staffroom and rub her. On occasions, when she was walking home from school, he drove past her in his car and called out "would you like a ride, Mary" with a grin on his face.

She said that due to this she would not leave the school building until he had driven off.

She said that she "felt like a piece of meat" and that Mr Mooney's behaviour was "arrogant", made her uncomfortable, and was "very inappropriate".

Distress

The court also heard that she was driven to breaking point by Mr Mooney's alleged behaviour, which resulted in her cutting the tyres of his car, something she regretted.

Her claims are denied by the VEC. Mr Mooney is not a party to the case.

Mrs O'Toole (48) -- a teacher of history, geography and English, of Whitehall Estate, Tullamore, Co Offaly -- has brought a personal injuries action against Offaly VEC.

She claims the VEC was negligent and in breach of its duty of care towards her, caused her to suffer personal injuries and distress, and failed to provide a safe place of work.

Counsel for Mrs O'Toole, John Peart, told the court his client claimed there was "a campaign" of bullying and harassment by Mr O'Toole. This "was known by the school authorities" who "didn't help her" and instead appeared "to take the side of the bully".

There were a number of incidents over the four years when he leered at her and was rude to her, Mr Peart said.

During one social occasion at the school, Mr Mooney allegedly said to her that "all women are stupid", and that she (O'Toole) "is stupid and your mother is stupid too".

Mr Peart said that on another social occasion Mrs O'Toole, in an attempt to sort out things between them, asked Mr Mooney if they could be friends. He replied they "could not be friends without having sex".

She transferred to another school in 2001, but it was initially to a school where she had specifically asked not to be sent. She is now a teacher in Ferbane.

After the transfer Mrs O'Toole was interviewed by the gardai following an arson attack on the school, something that greatly upset her as she had nothing to do with it, counsel said.

The case before Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill continues.

Irish Independent

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