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TUI Warns Of False Abuse Claims

The Irish Times - Friday, February 6, 2004 by Emmet Oliver

Some teenagers have fabricated malicious sexual abuse allegations against teachers, causing great suffering and distress, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) has claimed.

The union's general secretary, Mr Jim Dorney, said teachers were being suspended on full pay on foot of complaints from pupils even though they had been convicted of no offence.

"It is a fundamental tenet of our legal system that one is innocent until proved guilty. Suspending a teacher from duty, even on full pay does, we believe, violate that principle".

"There are instances where allegations of sexual abuse have been fabricated by teenagers against teachers.

"Teachers who have been the subject of such allegations suffer greatly and have difficulty adjusting even after the allegations have been shown to be false," he said.

"For example, a former Christian Brother said in November after his conviction for sexual assault was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal that the false accusations took away both his good name and job," said Mr Dorney.

He acknowledged that there had been a "huge betrayal of trust"where abuse genuinely occurred. But he said his concern was with the immediate - and understandable - reaction of suspending a teacher once an allegation was made.

"In a small town, or in a school environment, a teacher suspended pays a price. There is an assumption that the teacher would not have been suspended had not he or she done some wrong.

"The solution to this problem is not easy. It is of paramount importance that children are protected, yet it is also important that innocent people are protected from false and sometimes malicious allegations.

"The correct balance of rights needs to be carefully weighted in these cases," he said.

Mr Dorney, a long-standing union figure, has submitted his views to the forthcoming edition of TUI News , the newsletter of his union.

Meanwhile the annual conference of the Irish Primary Principals' Network (IPPN) is to be told school principals have virtually no agreed procedures for dealing with under-performing teachers and other school staff,

The conference's theme is under-performance, with IPPN describing the problem as a "taboo subject".

The conference began yesterday in Dublin, but IPPN director Mr Sean Cottrell's speech today is likely to draw many delegates.

He will urge the Department of Education and school managements to "address the lack of appropriate procedures required to empower principals to manage under-performing staff".