Saturday 16 December 2017

Deputy principal accused of bullying takes court challenge aimed at halting disciplinary hearing

Lanesboro Community College, Longford. Picture: Google Maps
Lanesboro Community College, Longford. Picture: Google Maps

Aodhan O'Faolain

The deputy principal of a secondary school has brought a High Court challenge aimed at halting a disciplinary hearing concerning bullying allegations against him.

The action has been brought by Mr Michael Lyons who is the deputy head teacher at Lanesboro Community College in Co Longford against the Longford Westmeath Education Training Board (ETB), which operates the school.

The matter came before Ms Justice Marie Baker on Friday who was informed the disciplinary process relates to findings made against Mr Lyons following a bullying complaint made by a colleague at the co-education school in 2015.

The Judge granted Mr Lyons permission to bring his challenge where he seeks orders quashing the decision to summon him to a disciplinary meeting on September 15th next. Permission was granted on an ex parte basis where there was only one party in court.

The Judge also granted Mr Lyons a temporary injunction preventing the ETB from invoking a disciplinary process otherwise than in accordance with procedures set out by the Department of Education.

Barrister Feichin McDonagh SC for Mr Lyons said the ETB's decision to commence a disciplinary process against his client was "fundamentally flawed."

The ETB's decision, counsel added, also ignores "safeguards" included in the relevant regulations concerning disciplinary procedures involving teachers.

It relates to a probe conducted by a Human Resources professional into complaint of bullying made against his client by a female teacher at the school.

Counsel said that process involved a series of parallel interviews conducted by the HR professional, but there was no cross examination of the parties.

Mr Lyons was cleared of most of the allegations against him but counsel said were some "minor" findings made against his client.

Arising out of this he was summoned by the ETB to a stage 4 disciplinary meeting, which counsel said is the highest level of hearings.

It is very serious matter for Mr Lyons and could result in his dismissal, counsel said.

The matter returns before the courts in October.

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