Teacher­atWex­ford­school ‘taped­mouths’of­s­tu­dents

New Ross Standard - - NEWS - By DAVID TUCKER

FIVE school­girls at a County Wex­ford school said their mouths were taped shut by a teacher in fifth class when they did not stop talk­ing.

They gave ev­i­dence of their al­leged treat­ment by a fe­male sub­sti­tute teacher at Ire­land’s first-ever pub­lic fit­ness-to-prac­tise in­quiry, held by the Teach­ing Coun­cil in Maynooth last week.

The teacher, who has not been named, faced al­le­ga­tions of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct at the in­quiry into the March 2012 in­ci­dent in a pri­mary school.

‘I was scared and shocked,’ said one of the girls as she re­called the in­ci­dent, which is al­leged to have hap­pened when they were in fifth class.

The teacher was not present at the hear­ing and was not rep­re­sented. In a sub­mis­sion to the Teach­ing Coun­cil, she de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions and claimed the chil­dren had taped up their own mouths. Each of the pupils con­tra­dicted this.

The young wit­nesses, who are now aged be­tween 15 and 16, said there were six boys and five girls in a maths class. They ad­mit­ted that all the pupils were talk­ing and mess­ing and that they did not stop talk­ing de­spite the teacher telling them to “whist” on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

The sub­sti­tute teacher, who had started at the school two days pre­vi­ously, said she would Sel­lotape their mouths if they didn’t stop talk­ing.

‘She could not con­trol the class. We kept talk­ing,’ said a now 16 year old.

The in­quiry heard that the teacher placed Sel­lotape on the lips of two of the girls and in­structed the other three girls in the class to put Sel­lotape on their own mouths. It re­mained on the girls’ mouths for up to 30 minutes un­til the class ended.

The school prin­ci­pal said she was later in­formed what had hap­pened by a pupil and she spoke with the five girls.

‘I could see they were up­set. One or two were cry­ing,’ she said.

The girls had ‘ lit­tle red marks’ around their mouths, she said. When the sub­sti­tute teacher ar­rived back at the school later that af­ter­noon, she put the al­le­ga­tions to her.

The teacher did not deny it and said she ‘didn’t mean any harm by it’.

How­ever, she later told the Teach­ing Coun­cil she had not taped the pupils’ mouths.

The prin­ci­pal in­formed her that af­ter­noon that she was not to return to the sub­sti­tute teach­ing job. She con­tacted the par­ents and asked the girls to write down what had hap­pened.

The prin­ci­pal said she had con­tacted the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, Tusla and the HSE.

The hear­ing heard that at­tempts by solic­i­tor Natasha Forde, act­ing on be­half of the Teach­ing Coun­cil di­rec­tor, to main­tain con­tact with the teacher since a pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing in Septem­ber, had been fruit­less.

At one stage, the teacher in­di­cated to the in­quiry team she ‘no longer’ wished to be con­tacted by phone or email.

Among the ev­i­dence was that, last month, a man an­swered a call to the con­tact num­ber pro­vided by the teacher and said it was a ‘wrong num­ber’. On other oc­ca­sions, there was no re­sponse or the call was dis­con­nected.

Over two days ear­lier this month, a sum­mons server called to the teacher’s apart­ment and there was no re­ply. One neigh­bour said she hadn’t seen her for the pre­vi­ous week and that post hadn’t been col­lected.

A 10-year-old neigh­bour told the sum­mons server that he be­lieved she had ‘gone back to her other house in an­other county’.

The iden­tity of the teacher, the school prin­ci­pal and the pupils were not made pub­lic at the hear­ing. The school was not named.

The hear­ing con­cluded with the three-mem­ber panel in­di­cat­ing it will give its de­ci­sion on the case at a later date.

The Teach­ing Coun­cil in Maynooth heard al­le­ga­tions of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct at a Wex­ford school.

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