Netizen 24 IRL: Teacher alleged to have applied Sellotape to mouths of students

Teacher alleged to have applied Sellotape to mouths of students A teacher is alleged to have applied Sellotape to the mouths of five primary...

Teacher alleged to have applied Sellotape to mouths of students

A teacher is alleged to have applied Sellotape to the mouths of five primary school girls, the first public fitness-to-teach inquiry has heard.

The teacher at the centre of the allegations, who is a woman, has not appeared at the inquiry on Wednesday.

The name of the teacher, school and other identifying details will remain anonymous in the interests of protecting children at the centre of the allegations.

The teacher is alleged to have applied, or caused to be applied, sellotape to the mouths of four girls during a fifth-class maths lesson for between 15 and 20 minutes.

The incident is alleged to have occurred March 7th, 2012, three days after the teacher began work as a substitute teacher.

The teacher has rejected the allegations as “historic and unfounded” and maintained that she was not medically able to attend the hearing.

In opening remarks, Mr Remy Farrell SC for the inquiry said the teacher had been hired to work in a learning support role at the primary school for 12 weeks.

During the class, some of the students became “somewhat giddy and were laughing and talking”.

The teacher is alleged to have warned them to remain quiet and, if they did not, she would put Sellotape on their mouths.

The teacher is then alleged to have either applied, or caused to be applied, Sellotape to the mouths of five girls for between 15 and 30 minutes. When the class ended, she directed that it be removed.

Mr Farrell said the school principal was alerted to the incident by a child in the class and found some of the students to be in a state of “upset and distress”.

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‘Chatting and messing’

When the principal informed the teacher of the allegations, she is alleged to have sought to justify it on the basis that they had been “chatting and messing and didn’t mean anything by it”.

The principal subsequently told the teacher that her services were no longer required and took statements from the girls, before formally notifying the HSE and Department of Education.

Mr Farrell told the inquiry that in an earlier statement to the Teaching Council, the teacher had rejected the allegations and insisted that two or three of the girls had placed Sellotape on their own mouths.

She maintained that she asked them to remove the Sellotape, and noticed that about two other children still had sellotape on their mouths when leaving the class and asked them to remove this.

In her statement, she said she did not physically assault any students and did not have access to any Sellotape.

The inquiry heard that while the teacher had been provided with evidence relating to the allegations and the date of the hearing by both registered post and email, she had ceased responding in recent weeks.

The teacher told the inquiry that she did not wish to be contacted by phone or email, a process she found in trusive and damaging to her health.

When the inquiry engaged the use of a summons server to deliver correspondence to her address in recent weeks, it heard that the teacher did not appear to be residing at her home address.

A neighbour told the summons server he understood that she was living with her mother in a different county.

A three-person panel, made up of two teachers - Denis Magner and Eamon Shaughnessy - is hearing the case. The third representative is Áine Lynch is the CEO of the National Parents Council (primary).

The panel has powers similar to those of the High Court and can compel witnesses and evidence.

However, teachers who are subject to the inquiry are not obliged to attend in person and may be represented by a union, colleague or legal representative.

The teacher at the centre of the allegations did not have any representatives at the hearing today.

The two-day hearing got underway at the offices of the Teaching Council, the regulatory body for the profession, in Maynooth on Wednesday.

Inquiries that reach this stage are held in public unless the disciplinary panel agrees to a request from witnesses.

The Teaching Council is currently investigating about 25 complaints, ranging from relatively minor to more serious allegations.

Most involve primary school teachers. A further 25 complaints have been dismissed as there was no clear case to warrant further action.

Fitness-to-teach legislation

The process broadly mirrors disciplinary procedures for the nursing and medical professions. If a finding is ultimately made against a teacher, sanctions range from a written warning to an indefinite ban from the classroom.

Although fitness-to-teach legislation was enacted 15 years ago, the relevant sections were only formally commence d by Minister for Education Richard Bruton last year.

Anybody may complain about a teacher to the Teaching Council, 16 of whose 37 members are registered teachers who were elected by teachers.

Among the grounds under which the council may examine complaints are poor professional performance, being medically unfit to teach and having certain convictions.

All complaints are reviewed by the council’s director and, if accepted, referred to an investigating committee.

This committee may then refer the complaint to an inquiry or a disciplinary committee. Complaints that are referred to disc iplinary committees must be of a serious nature.

The ASTI, TUI and INTO teaching unions, which are represented on the council, say they will work to ensure any investigations are fair.

The council has also said the measures are about “improving teaching, not punishing teachers”.

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Netizen 24 Ireland: Netizen 24 IRL: Teacher alleged to have applied Sellotape to mouths of students
Netizen 24 IRL: Teacher alleged to have applied Sellotape to mouths of students
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/"'
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