Teacher Gets €900,000 in Paid Leave as 14-year Case Drags On
Irish Independent February 28 2011 by Patricia McDonagh
A TEACHER placed on paid leave amid child protection allegations is estimated to have received almost €900,000, as a probe into the claims has dragged on for 14 years.
The teacher is one of 15 receiving full pay while under investigation for the alleged abuse and neglect of primary and secondary school students.
The Irish Independent has learned that the teachers are all on paid administrative leave -- receiving an average salary of €64,000 up until last year. This has since been reduced to €57,000 as a result of cuts.
The average length of time for an investigation to be completed is between three months and seven years. But it has been confirmed that one teacher has been on leave for 14 years and has received an estimated salary of €889,000 during that time.
According to the Department of Education, an inquiry was carried out by the HSE into the case and there was a criminal process.
However, a spokesman has refused to say what the outcome of both probes was and the HSE and gardai have also refused to comment on the case.
"In addition to the HSE inquiry, there were two sets of civil legal proceedings," he said.
"Currently, there is an internal process taking place between this person and the employer."
Last year, the Irish Independent revealed that a teacher received an estimated €500,000 in pay as a probe into child protection allegations dragged on for nine years.
This person was one of 13 who were also on paid leave -- but the department failed to state that one of the other 12 teachers had been on leave for 14 years.
"It should be noted that while this case was included in the overall numbers provided for a similar query last year, it would appear that the period of administrative leave ie, the 14 years was omitted from the detail provided," admitted an official.
The Children First guidelines make it mandatory to report suspected child abuse.
But in 2001, the Department of Education issued its own guidelines to schools for reporting suspected abuse to a liaison officer. This person, who is appointed by the school board of management, passes any concerns on to the HSE. It can then go on to formally notify gardai if it suspects a child has been physically, sexually abused or wilfully neglected.
If the child is at serious risk, a child protection inquiry is set up by the HSE.
It is also up to the school board of management to decide if a teacher should be suspended or receive pay during that time.
Last night, Gemma Tuffy, of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) said principals usually erred on the side of caution and placed the teacher on administrative leave when an allegation surfaced.
And while she said such leave did not imply guilt, she insisted changes were needed to make the system more effective.
"The ASTI is extremely concerned at the length of time of investigations of allegations against teachers," she said. "The ASTI made strong representations to Minister for Children last year on this issue as part of the consultation process on the review of the Children First guidelines."
The Irish National Teachers' Organisation said investigations into child protection allegations had to be conducted in a thorough manner.
But president of the National Parent's Council Post-Primary Tommy Walshe said the maximum time for an investigation should be two years.
"It is completely unnecessary for an investigation to go on for 14 years. It is a ridiculous and ludicrous amount of time," he said.
Last night, the Department of Education said it was not its role to investigate individual allegations of suspension or dismissal of teachers.