Teachers settle school bullying claim case

 

Six teachers at a Dublin secondary school who claimed they were bullied and harassed by their school principal have settled their High Court actions for "substantial damages".

One of the teachers had claimed the actions of principal Austin Kearney had made the profession she loved "a working nightmare".

The six teachers at the Presentation secondary school in Terenure, Dublin, had taken proceedings against the former manager and owners of the school, alleging the defendants had failed to take steps to stop the alleged bullying by Mr Kearney.

As part of the settlement of the cases, the teachers - Patricia Langan, Deirdre McEntee, Rosemary McGinley, Nuala Cranley, Lorraine Jones and John Loughman - all received an apology from the defendants, former school manager Michael Ó Lionáin and Sr Claude Meagher in her capacity as nominee of the Presentation Order.

In their apology, the defendants unreservedly acknowledged that the six were all "highly competent" teachers and that their dedication to all aspects of the school was unquestioned.

The defendants said the teachers were fully justified in taking their claims about the "unacceptable manner" in which they were treated by Mr Kearney, despite management's best efforts during their terms of office to deal with the matter.

Following discussions between the parties yesterday, Ms Justice Mary Irvine was asked to strike out the proceedings and was told the cases had been settled on terms including the payment of substantial damages to each teacher.

In their statements of claim, the teachers said they suffered stress and anxiety as a result of being bullied in their workplace.

Lorraine Jones claimed she was subject to unlawful harassment and bullying by Mr Kearney as far back as 1997. As a result, she claimed she suffered health problems and hated having to go to work.

Ms Jones claimed Mr Kearney had perceived her as disloyal because she had voted in favour of a proposal from her union that changes in work practices at the school should not take place without prior consultation with staff.

In June 1998, when she met Mr Kearney to discuss her position for the following academic year, he had told her there would be no position available for her in the coming year and had "cynically" advised her that "a good place" to find a job would be in the recruitment pages of the Irish Independent, she claimed.

Patricia Langan claimed she was repeatedly publicly humiliated by Mr Kearney but, despite raising her concerns with management as far back as 1991, they failed to take any meaningful steps to deal with it.

Among the incidents in which she said she suffered humiliation was at an end-of-year Mass when the principal had "pointedly" referred to a lack of loyalty by some staff members, she said.

Nuala Cranley claimed that, as a result of an incident on a school trip during 1995 and the "inappropriate if not criminal antics" of some pupils, she suffered personal injury.

She claimed Mr Kearney only imposed a minor sanction on the pupils involved and this was "deliberately designed" to belittle her in the eyes of the students.

Deirdre McEntee claimed Mr Kearney regularly mistreated her and abused his authority at meetings.

Since 2001, he had interfered with the distribution by Ms McEntee of anti-bullying leaflets to parents, she claimed.

Rosemary McGinley claimed Mr Kearney refused to communicate with her on a personal level and communicated only through memos or through the school secretary.

John Loughman claimed Mr Kearney subjected him to a consistent campaign of harassment and had on one occasion reported Mr Loughman as being absent without permission when he was in fact on jury duty.