The High Court has dismissed a teacher's challenge to decisions to initially transfer her to another school and later place her on administrative leave.
Mary McEneaney claimed, that since the Cavan and Monaghan Education Training Board learned in 2009 that she suffered from depression, she had been discriminated against by the Board on grounds of her illness.
The court heard she had been the subject of a number of complaints by pupils and their parents about her teaching.
Ms McEneaney, a teacher of biology and home economics with an address in Monaghan town, sought to quash the transfer decision of August 2013 and a later decision to place her on administrative leave. She said the Board had failed to implement appropriate procedures under a 2009 Department of Education Circular dealing with competency issues.
High Court President, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, dismissing her application, said Ms McEneaney suffered significant health issues. The only way she could return to teaching at Largy College in Clones, Co Monaghan, would be after a number of complaints against her had been "appropriately resolved."
McEneaney rejected claims by the Board that the compulsory transfer from the 500-pupil Largy College to a smaller school in Co Cavan was based on concerns about her mental health and that it was intended as "a fresh start" for her and in her own best interests and that of Largy College.
She alleged she had not been given a proper opportunity to deal with five complaints from parents and pupils. There had not been a formal investigation into the complaints, all of which she rejected.
The Board claimed no investigation had been proceeded with due to its concerns about Ms McEneaney's health. It denied any wrong doing and argued its decision to place her on administrative leave was “appropriate, proportioned and rational.”
Judge Kearns said it was a pity a solution had not been found . He was satisfied the Board was entitled to place her on administrative leave with full pay pending an investigation. It would have been unrealistic to allow her return to Largy College without a full resolution of the complaints against her.
"The interests of the school, its students and, more particularly, Ms McEneaney herself, required no less," he said. The placing of an employee on administrative leave did not amount to a punitive decision.
Judge Kearns said he failed to understand how the decision to transfer Ms McEneaney could be seen as a penalty. Her pay and entitlements were not effected and a transfer to another school was a solution she initially put forward herself.
He said any investigation would have to afford fair procedures to Ms McEneaney and conform with the principles of natural and constitutional justice.