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Teacher challenges Children’s Ombudsman inquiry into school’s handling of complaints

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An assistant principal teacher is challenging an investigation by the Children’s Ombudsman into complaints about a second level school’s handling of bullying and other complaints from parents of a student.

The teacher claims there has been a failure by the Ombudsman to respond to requests for full information about the allegations and about whether the teacher could be the subject of the investigation and any possible adverse findings by it.

On Friday, Mr Justice Charles Meenan granted leave to bring a judicial review and an order staying investigation pending determination of the proceedings following a one-side only represented application by John Kennedy BL, for the teacher.

The judge said the stay will effectively stop the inquiry, due to start on Monday, but gave the Ombudsman liberty to apply with 48 hours notice to the court to lift or vary the stay.

Mr Kennedy told the judge it will be argued there is a separate process for investigating teachers under the Teaching Council Act and this process was therefore statutorily flawed. If a report is prepared arising out of it, it could have grave consequences for his client’s career arising out of what would be a flawed process, counsel said.

Mr Kennedy said despite requests to the defendant for full particulars of the complaint, only an extract of the complaint from the parents had been supplied.

These included a lack of child protection data in relation to the student at senior school management level and a failure to adequately address persistent bullying. There were also allegations about the inadequacy of support for the student’s academic and physical difficulties as well as an alleged lack of pastoral care.

The teacher, who is also year head, claims in her proceedings the Ombudsman has acted contrary to fair procedures and natural justice in causing the investigation to proceed.

She also says the defendant has exceeded any powers under the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002 as to whether there was compliance with a mandatory requirement for a preliminary examination of the complaints.

Among the orders and declarations sought is an order that she be provided with a copy of the full complaint and a declaration that continuation of the investigation would be a breach of constitutional rights.

The case comes back to court in December.

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