A teacher at a boarding school is facing six allegations of professional misconduct including allowing a student to drink a glass of wine in his private accommodation, writes Louise Roseingrave.
The teacher was employed by the boarding school in an additional supervisory role and was provided on-site accommodation adjacent to the student’s dorm as part of that role.
It is alleged that the teacher sent a number of messages via text and Whatsapp to the student on the night of November 28, 2016.
The teacher is facing a total of six allegations before a fitness-to-teach inquiry taking place at the Teaching Council in Maynooth, Co Kildare.
It is alleged the teacher requested via text message that the student retract information he had provided to the principal and to gardaí. It is further alleged that contact between the two continued via text and Whatsapp after the principal asked the teacher to cease all contact with the student.
The teacher is alleged to have left the male student, who was over 18 and known only as Student A, alone in the teacher's on-campus accommodation where alcohol was available and when the student was in an angry or distressed state.
It is alleged the teacher was not fit to carry out his supervisory duties because he was under the influence of alcohol. However, the inquiry heard he was off duty on the night in question.
It is further alleged the teacher failed to report to senior staff that the student was absent from his dorm at midnight on the night in question when the teacher knew the student had consumed alcohol and was in a distressed state.
The inquiry heard details of a written statement from the teacher in question who said he’d had trouble motivating the student who seemed to have lost interest in his studies.
The teacher said the student was under pressure from his parents to achieve high results. He said the student came to his private accommodation on the evening of November 28, 2016.
The teacher said it was his night off and he’d been drinking wine in his apartment. He said they discussed the young man's studies but an issue arose when he asked the student if he had been taking ritalin that was not prescribed to him. The student became distressed and upset and ripped his own t-shirt. The teacher said he (the teacher) left the apartment and when he returned the student had gone.
The student was later picked up by gardaí and brought to the principal, and later to a garda station.
The teacher was summoned to a meeting with the principal at 7.30am on November 29 and suspended on full pay. He was advised not to make contact with the student.
However, details of Whatsapp messages revealed he’d contacted the student a number of times the previous night and throughout the day. One message the teacher sent the student read, “It was really nice tonight before I f**d up.”
The teacher asked the student via Whatsapp what he'd told gardaí and the student responded that he said they had got drunk and had a fight. The Whatsapp conversation between the two was intercepted by the student’s father the following day around 4pm and ended with the following message: ‘This is (Student A's) father. No more Whatsapp.’
In his written explanation to the school, the teacher said he'd sent the messages in an attempt to apologise to the student for what happened. The teacher wrote: “I wanted to take the blame for him getting drunk to give him a way out of the terrible situation he had put me in.”
Giving evidence at the inquiry, the principal said it would be 'very unusual’ for a student to be drinking alone with a teacher at the teacher’s home.
“You would never drink on your own with a student….because you leave yourself open to all sorts of accusations….If a student told me they were drinking alone with a (member of staff) I would be furious,” the principal said.
Counsel for the teacher argued that the teacher's supervisory duties do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Teaching Council and arose entirely from his duties as a supervisor.
“These are not matters the Teaching Council has jurisdiction to deal with. The (supervisory) role is entirely different to the role of teacher,” she said.
The three-member disciplinary committee inquiry panel, which includes two teachers, considered this submission but decided it was 'premature' and to continue with the inquiry, the second of its kind in state history.
The inquiry continues next week when it will hear evidence from teachers at the school.