Wednesday 18 January 2017

Teacher accused of calling private school student a 'little b***h' loses High Court case

Published 23/11/2016 | 16:40

Catholic University School. Picture: Google Maps
Catholic University School. Picture: Google Maps

A teacher has lost his High Court case over how a private fee-paying school dealt with a complaint alleging he called a male student a “little bitch”.

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Mr Justice Michael Twomey ruled Pierce Dillon was not entitled to judicial review against Catholic University School (CUS) in south Dublin for reasons including a final written warning issued to the teacher has expired.

The judge also said he was not so entitled because there is no record of it on his personnel file and because scarce court time should not be allocated to small matters.

Mr Dillon (55) sought judicial review of the formal procedure adopted by CUS in dealing with a complaint by the boy's parents over events on May 8/9, 2014.

The teenage student claimed, after he was late on May 8, 2014, for Mr Dillon's class due to talking to another teacher, Mr Dillon told him he was continually disrupting the class, always moaning and was a “little bitch”.

The student also claimed, after telling Mr Dillon the following day he could not attend class due to a school sports’ commitment, he was told he would be kicked out of class for three weeks. The boy alleged he told Mr Dillon he was not allowed call him a “little bitch” and Mr Dillon had denied doing so.

After the complaint was substantiated, a meeting was held on March 27, 2015, to discuss disciplinary action, leading to a final written warning being issued to Mr Dillon in April 2015.

Mr Dillon was told this was a Marist Catholic school known for the kindness and humanity with which it treats pupils, his behaviour fell short of its expectations and the final warning would be active for 12 months after which, subject to his satisfactory performance, it would expire. It has done so.

His case centred on claims the school applied the incorrect procedure for dealing with the complaint.

He claimed the handling of the complaint was unfair, breached his rights and the school’s own procedures, and caused him hurt and distress after 34 years service as a teacher. He also claimed it allowed no appeal.

The school argued it implemented the appropriate procedure and Mr Dillon was treated fairly.  

Mr Justice Twomey said the court was being asked to intervene to quash a final written warning to a teacher concerning one incident of inappropriate name calling.

The court should not intervene on grounds of mootness (pointlessness) because, when the matter was first heard, the warning had expired. It had also been removed from his record within 12 months.

The judge said he was also refusing judicial review in accordance with a legal principle by which the court refuses to consider small matters because the final warning was “just a warning” to be removed after 12 months and treated as it if had not existed. There was no imposition of any liability, he said.

He would also refuse judicial review based on the need to avoid unnecessary use of the scarce public resource of court time, he added.

He was not being personally critical of Mr Dillon but other factors, apart from the teacher’s subjective belief he should not have been sanctioned, had to be considered by the court.

Having done so, he believed this case did not involve an appropriate use of public resources.

Costs issues will be addressed next week.

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