Monday 23 January 2017

Teacher at Dublin fee-paying school denies calling male student a 'little b**ch', court hears

Tim Healy

Published 28/06/2016 | 17:47

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A TEACHER at a private fee-paying school in south Dublin has brought a legal challenge over how it dealt with a complaint alleging he called a male student a “little b**ch”.

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Pierce Dillon (55) denies using such language and has challenged the formal procedure adopted by Catholic University School in dealing with a complaint made by the teenager’s parents over events on May 8/9, 2014.

In his High Court action, Mr Dillon alleges there was no basis under which an allegation of name calling “morphed” into a claim of inappropriate behaviour.

He claims a February 2015 finding of "inappropriate behaviour and language" against him was unjustified and unfair.

As a result of that finding, Mr Dillon received a final written warning in April 2015 under a disciplinary procedure.

Mr Dillon was told this was a Marist Catholic school known for the kindness and humanity with which it treats pupils and his behaviour fell short of its expectations, the court heard.

 He was told it was expected he would follow school procedures and the final warning would be active for 12 months after which, subject to his satisfactory performance, it would expire.

The warning has so expired, the court was told.

Mr Dillon's case, outlined by his counsel Mark Connaughton SC, centres on claims the school applied the incorrect procedure for dealing with the complaint.

Feichin McDonagh SC, for the school, said it implemented the appropriate procedure and the entire case rested on a "misconception".

In correspondence read to the court, Mr Dillon accused the school of adopting a "Thatcherite" solution to industrial relations and a procedure with "all the hallmarks of a kangaroo court" which "reflects badly on the Marist ethos".

The school described that language as "unhelpful and inappropriate", rejected Mr Dillon's claims he was not given an opportunity to engage with the procedures and maintained it acted in accordance with the Marist ethos.

The case opened before Mr Justice Michael Twomey on Tuesday and will resume later on a date to be fixed.

The court heard 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 b**ch”.

The student also claimed, after he told 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 b**ch” and Mr Dillon had denied doing so. The student claimed he told Mr Dillon he was a “coward” and the teacher shut the door in his face.

Another student made corroborating statements in relation to those events but the school said those were not relied on in the decision on the complaint.

The student’s father separately complained to Mr Dillon at a parent

teacher meeting the teacher called his son “a stupid twot”, the court heard. Mr Dillon denied that but had said he would sometimes call students “twits”.

Mr Dillon claims the handling of the complaint was unfair, in breach of his rights and the school’s own procedures, and has caused him hurt and distress after 34 years service as a teacher.

Mr Connaughton said a formal complaint was made in June 2014 after the student’s parents were unhappy with an informal process. Even before the school moved to a formal disciplinary procedure, Mr Dillon raised concerns about how the matter was being dealt with, counsel said.

This matter was dealt with under a 2009 revised disciplinary procedure and the finding of inappropriate behaviour did not flow from what was initially put to Mr Dillon, counsel argued.

The school then proceeded to address sanction, "brushing aside" the protections that should be available, and allowing no appeal, he said.

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