Friday 19 January 2018

School bosses ignored claims of harassment, court is told

Tim Healy

A SECONDARY school teacher told the High Court yesterday that her complaints about sexual harassment were not dealt with by her bosses.

Mary O'Toole said neither the head of Offaly VEC nor the principal of Tullamore College wanted to know when she complained about the behaviour of fellow teacher, Jim Mooney.

Mrs O'Toole, who teaches history, geography and English, claims she was leered at, inappropriately touched and intimidated by Mr Mooney, on different occasions between 1996 and 2000.

She claims the VEC did nothing about her complaints and she transferred to another school in 2001.

Mrs O'Toole (48), a married mother, of Whitehall Estate, Tullamore, claimed the VEC was negligent and in breach of its duty of care towards her and caused her to suffer personal injuries and distress.

The claims are denied. Yesterday, on the second day of the hearing, Mrs O'Toole told the court that out of frustration she cut a tyre on Mr Mooney's car and broke the aerial in November 1998 and as a result she attended a meeting with both VEC CEO Dermot O'Neill and the school principal Edward McEvoy.

At the meeting, she said she caused the damage to Mr Mooney's car while he was playing indoor soccer but said they did not wish to discuss Mr Mooney's alleged behaviour.

However, she did tell them about an incident in May 1998 after she and some other teachers ended up in Mr Mooney's house following drinks in a pub.

She had wanted to sort out the past difficulties with Mr Mooney but when she tried to do so, he said they could not be friends without sex. She said that she told him that she could not have sex with him.

She claimed he then exposed himself, and tried to nudge her head towards his crotch. She got up immediately and left. She was humiliated and upset. She said that as Mr Mooney was "very, very drunk" she was willing to excuse him.

She said that in one of a series of meetings the CEO told her that her allegations against Mr Mooney were outside the area of responsibility of Offaly VEC. She said she was asked to write letters of apology to Mr Mooney, Offaly VEC and to request a transfer to another school.

She also told the court that her relationship with the CEO and principal deteriorated as a result and she felt that they did not care about her and that Mr Mooney's side had been taken.

She said that as she was afraid that her job was on the line she agreed to withdraw her complaints.

The case before Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill continues.

Irish Independent

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