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Wednesday 26 September 2018

Student threatened to 'kick the baby out' of pregnant teacher

Audrey Cepeda told delegates of violence in the classroom. Photo: Tommy Clancy
Audrey Cepeda told delegates of violence in the classroom. Photo: Tommy Clancy

A student who threatened a pregnant teacher and told her he would "kick the baby out" was back in the classroom the next day, a teachers' union conference was told.

The frightened teacher fled the classroom and, when the student followed her, had to lock herself in a side room and ring the school office.

The incident started when the teacher challenged the student over misbehaviour.

Audrey Cepeda told the annual conference of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) that the student was suspended three weeks later, but that "was not good enough and, if there are going to be consequences, it is much better that it happens very quickly".

Failure

She said teachers felt unsupported and the failure of schools and other educational settings to implement codes of behaviour and "a blatant disregard of health and safety procedures" was causing growing levels of work-related stress.

TUI general secretary John MacGabhann told reporters afterwards that such incidents were not the norm, but a small minority of schools were affected by student violence.

"We don't want to be alarmist about this but we want to nail the problem where it occurs. In some instances, school management simply do not discharge their obligations," he said.

Ms Cepeda, chair of TUI Dublin City branch, detailed a litany of aggressive and violent incidents, which, she said, were now daily occurrences.

"Some of them are quite bad; teachers would have objects thrown at them - nuts and bolts, cans of coke, coins, some might be pushed.

"Some may be physically assaulted before someone gets a chance to intervene," Ms Cepeda said.

"Sometimes it is verbal assault, where students could be inches from the teacher's face, threatening them in front of class, and they don't know if it is going to escalate further.

"Sometimes, a student might swing for a teacher and it may not connect but the following day that student could be sitting back in front of you."

She said that teachers will report such incidents to management and ask for certain codes of behaviour to be implemented, but feel they are disregarded.

Ms Cepeda said teachers were often left feeling that it was their fault, that it was their management style or that they hadn't imposed discipline and may be told that they needed some up-skilling.

Indiscipline

A motion adopted by the conference commits the unions to establish the extent of work-related stress due to indiscipline, violence and breaches of health and safety in their schools and other educational centres, and how school managements were dealing with it.

Meanwhile, the conference also voted unanimously not to comply with a Department of Education directive to provide alternative classes to students in community schools and community colleges who opt out of religion, from next September, unless extra staffing is provided.

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