Tuesday 16 January 2018

'Whistleblower' teacher claims colleague spoke of having sex with female graduate student

The whistleblower also claims the same colleague told him he had exposed himself to a different female graduate student

The Four Courts
The Four Courts

Tim Healy

A “whistle-blower” teacher has claimed a male colleague had told him of having sex with a 6th year female graduate student at his home in 2008, the High Court heard.

The teacher claims he informed the school principal after the same colleague told him in 2011 he had exposed himself to a different female graduate student “in the stands” of a sports facility. 

The colleague totally rejects he either said or did those things.

Marguerite Bolger SC, for the alleged whistle blower, said "nothing was done" arising from what her client disclosed until an investigation was initiated by the school in recent months.

Her client had made disclosures under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 which affords "spectacular" protections for whistle blowers.

He had a reasonable belief of the truth of what he disclosed  and should not be at risk of disciplinary proceedings or penalty irrespective of the findings of the investigation, counsel said.

She was making submissions in her client's application for injunctions restraining any disciplinary procedure.

Neither the teachers nor the school can be named by order of the court.

The court heard there is no suggestion of any criminal conduct in relation to the alleged encounters with the two women in 2008 and 2011.

There has been no sixth year student aged under18 in the relevant all girl second level school for some time.

The alleged whistle blower claims he reported both alleged revelations to the school principal in August 2011 but was not aware any action was taken as a result.

When his daughter was preparing to enrol in the school, he again raised the matters with the principal in March 2015.

While the females involved may have been over 18, the teacher said he considered his colleague’s behaviour “highly inappropriate” and felt he had a moral obligation to report it.

After he raised the matters again in March 2015, he was asked to meet with the school’s solicitor and was later informed the board of management had appointed an independent investigator to investigate his disclosures.

The colleague against whom the allegations were made had raised issues about his motivation in making the disclosure.

Arising from the investigation, Ms Bolger said her client's concern is there may be a finding he conducted himself in breach of discipline.

His legal action was intended to prevent any adverse outcome for him as he had made protected disclosures under the 2014 Act. He was willing to engage with the investigation but any disciplinary aspect concerning him should be taken out of it.

Maurice Collins SC, for the school, said it was not asserting the teacher had not made an appropriate disclosure but was concerned Ms Bolger was trying to introduce new matters.

Given the allegations and counter-allegations, there must be an investigation which could result in a range of findings, he said.

After exchanges between counsel and Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, the judge said there was not that much between the sides and both agreed there had to be an investigation.

He said they should discuss matters before the case resumes Friday (July 24).

Earlier, Ms Bolger said, while her client had no reason to believe the women allegedly referred to by the other teacher were not over18, her client considered, if the alleged remarks of his colleague were true, they raised child protection issues for pending students of the school. 

A significant part of her case relies on the 2014 Act which is “very much centre stage”. 

The Irish legislation goes significantly further than the UK legislation and in particular the UK requirement of good faith does not apply in the Irish Act, she said.

Ms Bolger said, in its investigation, the school seems determined to proceed to determine if there was serious misconduct.

Her client should not be at risk of any adverse disciplinary finding in this process,  as whatever goes on between the school and the other teacher was for them.

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