'I decided I would kill him first and then kill myself'
The recession and a heavier workload have led to an increase in bullying of teachers, the TUI conference heard yesterday. Here, one teacher who claims he was bullied by his principal tells his story to Majella O’Sullivan
WITH an imposing build and aura of authority, Peter does not look like the typical victim of bullying.
Yet he endured years of being bullied at the hands of his principal until he reached a point where he planned to murder his former friend before taking his own life.
Peter (not his real name) said the bullying began when a man he had considered to be his friend was promoted to principal. Over a period of time he noticed his own position of authority in the school being undermined and his status eroded. "It was very subtle to begin with and initially I felt I was being hyper-sensitive," Peter said.
The new principal's first instruction to Peter was not to attend any more managerial meetings. At staff meetings he'd be thanked for his "contribution" and then ignored. He felt he was being "air brushed" out of achievements he had been integral to within the school.
"This man was a prolific bully, some people avoided (taking) sides . . . Slowly but surely my circle of friends was becoming smaller and smaller, until I no longer had anyone on the staff I could call a friend.
"Suicide became a real option, down to the point where I had planned it.
"One night, having decided to take my own life, I decided it would be wrong to go on my own so I planned to go into his office and kill him first and then kill myself."
Peter said the only thing that saved him was looking at pictures of his wife and family and the thought that he could not do it to them.
Although he was happily married, he said it was some time before he plucked up the courage to confide in his wife. "I was a respected member of the community, and it would have killed me for my wife and family to think I was weak.
"But when you're planning your own death it's an extremely lonely place to be."
Peter says his recovery began shortly after that when he burst into his GP's office looking for help.
"I was in bits," he admits, "but he did not dismiss what I said."
Eventually he told his family and their reactions startled him. "My daughter said three words: 'I believe you' and for me that was massive," he said.
Even after all these years, Peter still cannot talk about that period of his life without tears rolling down his cheeks.
After confronting his fears, Peter decided to go through a mediation process with the principal, which he found "unsatisfactory". But he said he found his own ways to cope with the situation with the help of his wife and family.