Teacher allegedly allowed adult student consume alcohol
Inquiry hears teacher asked student to retract information given to principal and gardaí
The teacher was suspended on full pay.
A student was picked up by gardaí in a distressed state on a public road trying to make his way to Dublin airport in the early hours of the morning, a teaching inquiry heard.
The student, who was over 18, had become upset while drinking wine at a teacher’s residence at his boarding school. He returned to his home country on a flight hours later.
The teacher was employed by the school in an additional supervisory role and lived in permanent accommodation adjacent to the student’s dorm. He is facing six allegations of professional misconduct at a fitness to teach inquiry before a disciplinary committee of the Teaching Council.
The allegations include allowing the student to drink wine in his apartment and leaving the student alone there, knowing the student was upset and alcohol was available.
It is also alleged the teacher himself was in an unfit state to carry out his duties as he was under the influence of alcohol. The inquiry heard he was off duty on the night in question.
The inquiry heard gardaí picked up the student on a motorway attempting to stop traffic shortly before 1am on November 29th, 2016.
“There was a smell of alcohol on him, but I wouldn’t have classed him as being drunk,” a Garda witness told the inquiry.
Gardai brought the student back to the school where they met the teacher. Asked how the student reacted when the teacher tried to speak to him, the garda said: “He physically froze and took on a look of absolute sheer fear.”
The inquiry heard details of a written statement from the teacher who said he had trouble motivating the student.
The teacher said the student was under pressure from his parents to achieve high results. He said the student came to his accommodation on the evening of November 28th.
The teacher said it was his night off and he had been drinking wine. He said 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 ripped his own t-shirt. The teacher said he left the apartment and when he returned, the student had gone.
The teacher was summoned to a meeting with the principal on November 29th and suspended on full pay. He was advised not to make contact with the student. However, details of Whatsapp messages revealed he had 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***ed 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.
The inquiry continues next week when it will hear evidence from teachers at the school.