Tuesday 18 December 2018

Student threatened pregnant teacher and told her he would 'kick the baby out'

Picture posed. (Stock photo)
Picture posed. (Stock photo)
Delegate Audrey Cepeda at the TUI Congress in Wexford. Pic: Tommy Clancy
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A student who threatened a pregnant teacher and told her he would “kick the baby out” was back in the classroom the next day, a teachers’ union conference heard.

The frightened teacher fled the classroom and when the student followed her she locked herself in a side room and rang the school office.

The incident started when  the  teacher had challenged the student over misbehaviour ad the student “reared up and went for her”.

Audrey Cepeda, chair of the Dublin City branch of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), said the teacher was conscious of her duty of care to other students, and did not want to leave the classroom, but felt she had no option.

Delegate Audrey Cepeda at the TUI Congress in Wexford. Pic: Tommy Clancy
Delegate Audrey Cepeda at the TUI Congress in Wexford. Pic: Tommy Clancy

The student was suspended three weeks later, but “three weeks later was not good enough and it is much better if there are going to be consequences that it happens very quickly”,  Ms Cepeda told the TUI annual conference.

“If nothing happens for three weeks you are setting a precedent, this is what you can do without suffering any consequence,” she said.

Teachers felt unsupported and it was causing growing level of work- related stress because of the failure of schools and other educational settings to implement codes of behaviour and “a blatant disregard of health and safety procedures”.

Ms Cepeda detailed a litany of aggressive and violent incidents, which, she said, were now daily occurrences

“Some of them are quite bad; teachers would have objects thrown at them -  nuts and bolts, cans of coke, coins,some might be pushed. Some may be physically assaulted before someone gets a chance to intervene.”

She continued: “Sometimes it is verbal assault where students could be inches from the teacher’s face, threatening them in front of class, and they don’t know if it is going to escalate further.

“Then, sometimes, a student might swing for a teacher and may not connect but the following day that student could be sitting back in front of you.”

She said teachers will  report such incidents to to management and ask for certain codes of behaviour to be implemented but feel they're disregarded

Ms Cepeda said teachers were often left feeling that it is their fault, that it was their management style or that they hadn’t imposed discipline and may be told that  they need some upskilling to learn how to deal with such behaviour.

“It is being put back on teachers," she said adding that it was leading to high levels of absenteeism with many afraid to say they were suffering from work-related stress and passing it off as a virus or a kidney infection.

“Kids test boundaries all the time but it has gotten to a level of absenteeism across Dublin that teachers are exhausting sick leave.”

A motion adopted by the conference commits the unions to carry out an investigation to establish the extent of work-related stress sue to indiscipline, violence and breaches of health and safety in their schools and other educational centres, and how school managements were dealing with it.

The Dublin City branch, which has 850 members, is also going to conduct a survey of its own members on the issue.

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