Union urged to lobby for reforms to protect teachers

Wed, Apr 11, 2012, 01:00

TEACHERS' UNION OF IRELAND:TEACHERS’ UNION of Ireland delegates yesterday called on their union to lobby for legislative change to protect teachers and the general study body from disruptive students after hearing how one pregnant teacher had a chair dropped on her by a violent pupil.

Dublin city post-primary delegate Audrey Cepeda said the rights of teachers and the general student body are currently secondary to the rights of students and their parents irrespective of how disruptive they may be.

Ms Cepeda received unanimous support for a motion calling for a balance of rights in education legislation so that all partners in the school community have their rights and responsibilities clearly defined and legally vindicated in relation to school policies.

She told of one case where a teacher who was three months pregnant had a chair dropped on her from an upstairs balcony by a disruptive student and the teacher was obliged to face that same student in her class the following day.

She also instanced teachers being assaulted both in school and outside of school by violent students and again being forced to face those students in class the next day as principals were reluctant to take action because they were unsure of the legal position.

Ms Cepeda said that individual disruptive students know their rights and can cite their entitlement to be taught and principals “seem to wobbly on the issue” with some believing that they don’t have any legal right to exclude the student from a class.

“It’s getting worse, individual students are assaulting not just teachers but other students – the rights of teachers to teach must be an absolute right and we must be supported by management and legislation,” she said.

Meanwhile delegates strongly condemned any attempt by the Government to criminalise any teacher who fails to co-operate with departmental inspections as is proposed in the Education and Training Boards Bill.

Under the heads of the Bill, any person who obstructs or impedes an inspector in the exercise of their powers will be guilty of an offence and can be jailed for five years and/or fined up to €100,000 if convicted on indictment.

Delegate Michael Lyons from Cork described the proposal as “an outrageous and unacceptable attack on the teaching profession”, while Fergal McCarthy said it was an appalling way to treat any profession and the TUI would not accept it. Delegates unanimously condemned the proposal and TUI general secretary John MacGabhann described it as “plain daft” before confirming that the union had already expressed its concerns to the Department of Education over the proposal.

A department spokeswoman said that there was no question of teachers being singled out by the proposed legislation but the intention was to use the same approach as that used for other professions that are subject to statutory inspections.