Monday 23 April 2018

Teacher vows not to drink with pupils again

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The teacher at the centre of a case that saw a 19-year-old student being found on a motorway late at night has escaped sanctions by the Teaching Council.

Appearing before a professional misconduct inquiry, the teacher, also a housemaster, agreed to give undertakings in relation to two of six allegations based on a complaint by the school principal, under new fitness-to-teach legislation.

Undertakings not to repeat the conduct at the centre of two of the allegations were sought by the disciplinary panel.

The teacher has committed not to drink alone with students under his care in the future, and to not leaving a student alone in his on-campus residence where alcohol is available, knowing that a student is upset or angry.

They do not represent sanctions as set out in legislation, which include offers of professional support and being struck off the register.

Mary Paula Guinness, counsel for the teacher, said he gave the undertakings without reservation.

The two-day hearing revolved around events that occurred on the evening of November 28, 2016, and the following day, after the arrival of the student at the teacher's on-campus residence, where they drank wine together before the student left in a distressed state.

Gardaí picked up the student, a non-national, on a motorway sometime after midnight on the morning of November 29, as he was trying to flag a taxi to get to the airport and return home.

A garda who brought the student back to the school said that, on the way to the principal's house, a male approached and said: "You don't need to do this, you don't need to do this."

The student flew home later and the inquiry heard of a series of text messages between the teacher and the student that day, before the student's father intervened and sent a message stating: "No more WhatsApp."

The teacher, who the hearing was informed was a good teacher and popular housemaster, was suspended on full pay on November 29.

The inquiry heard of two accounts about the events written by him, one of which he sent to a colleague from whom he was seeking advice, and the other to the school in the context of its inquiries.

Remy Farrell SC, for the Teaching Council, said there were a number of discrepancies between the two accounts.

In the one sent to his colleague, the teacher said the student had reacted angrily when he heard of contact between his housemaster and parents over his studies.

"He tore his T-shirt to shreds and said he would do what he wanted," he wrote. At a point, the teacher left the residence.

He stated the student had about three glasses of wine, adding: "I think I maybe had twice that."

While he understood that drinking with him was not a good idea, he said that it was a "useful pastoral tool".

The inquiry also heard about the attitude to alcohol in the school. The policy was that there should be no access to alcohol for students, but there might be controlled occasions, such as a barbecue, where students would have some beer or wine.

There was a reference to one such occasion where Transition Year students, fifth-year students and sixth-year students had consumed alcohol.

Irish Independent

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