Tuesday 20 March 2018

Special needs assistant who claimed a school principal 'made her life hell' loses €38,000 damages claim

Judge's gavel.
Judge's gavel.

Saurya Cherfi

A special needs assistant, who claimed a school principal had “made her life hell,” has lost in the Circuit Civil Court a €38,000 damages claim for alleged bullying and harassment.

Judge John Aylmer today said that Samantha Kelly’s grievances against her former employer, the Central Remedial Clinic, could not be considered to have amounted to negligence and dismissed her claim.

Kelly (38), of Kilmahuddrick Road, Bawnogue, Clondalkin, Dublin, had told the court that in 2011she was working as a bus escort for children and also as a special needs assistant on a part-time basis. 

She claimed Anne McGrath, principal of Scoil Molchua, Clondalkin, Dublin, had bullied and harassed her for several months during the 2011/2012 school year.  This had happened after she had told McGrath she could no longer work as a special needs assistant for personal reasons.

Kelly, who sued the Central Remedial Clinic, of Vernon Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin, for personal injuries, said her contract had not been renewed the following school year.

She had claimed that McGrath had reprimanded her several times in front of children and colleagues, would “get at her” about things.  She claimed she suffered anxiety and distress.

Barrister Shane English, who appeared with Gore and Grimes solicitors for the CRC, said his client denied liability and also denied Ms McGrath had bullied or harassed Kelly.

Mr English said Ms McGrath had on one occasion no choice but to reprimand Ms Kelly in front of her colleagues because she had not wanted to follow procedures and sit in the body of the bus instead of the front despite having been told to do so.

The court heard that Kelly had failed on several occasions to show up for work with short notice or without any notice at all to Ms McGrath.

Mr English said Ms Kelly’s “laissez-faire attitude” in relation to showing up for work had, on some occasions where a bus escort substitute could not be arranged, resulted in children having to be driven to school by their parents and sometimes not being able to attend.

Counsel told the court Ms McGrath had become aware at the end of June 2012 that Ms Kelly, although on sick leave, had made comments on her Facebook account about going on a six-week holiday to Spain.  When Ms McGrath had tried to call her the phone revealed a foreign ring tone.

Kelly claimed she had been due to leave for her holiday right after work on the last day of the school year, but had been on sick leave for a few days previously due to kidney problems.  She had gone to Spain as planned.

Mr English said Ms Kelly had attended a meeting with Ms McGrath in August 2012 in relation to her time-keeping, unwillingness to comply with procedures and her holiday.  A decision not to renew her contract had been made afterwards, and a letter had been sent to Ms Kelly.

Judge Aylmer dismissed Kelly’s claim and awarded costs against her.

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