School principal says she was ‘horrified’ at Enoch Burke’s claim over ‘accepting transgenderism’ – – Our News, Your Views

School principal says she was ‘horrified’ at Enoch Burke’s claim over ‘accepting transgenderism’

The former headmaster of Wilson Hospital Secondary School in County Westmeath said she was ashamed for herself and absolutely terrified for a student when teacher Enoch Burke publicly accused her of trying to get teachers in the school to “accept transgenderism”, reports RTE.

Niah McShane was testifying in the school’s case against Mr Burke.

Mr Burke was not present in court and it was not clear whether he was listening to the proceedings online. The judge yesterday ordered them to leave the court after they refused to obey the judge’s order and continued to disrupt the proceedings.

This afternoon, Ms. McShane was asked about a church service on June 21 last year. The service was to celebrate the 260th anniversary of the school and to honor those who served the school. There will be a presentation for former teachers followed by dinner.

Last month, Ms McShane sent an email to all teachers at the school asking them to address each student with a new name and gender-neutral pronouns. Mr Burke had said she was trying to force teachers to “accept transgenderism” and told them she should withdraw their petition, which he described as a demand.

At the time of the church service, Ms. McShane had received emails from Mr. Burke regarding the matter, and it was discussed at a staff meeting and a separate meeting with Mr. Burke and the assistant principal.

Ms McShane said the church service was attended by parents, students, alumni, clergy, teachers and former teachers. She said that she did not know that Mr. Burke is going to say something.

When she went to speak to someone else, she said he contacted her again and again asked her to withdraw her “demand”, reports RTE.

She told the court that he was close enough to her that she could feel his spittle on her face. She said she felt “kind of hunted” and described Mr Burke as “agitated”. She said that she was really embarrassed and humiliated at that stage.

Ms McShane said she felt nervous and apprehensive and felt she did not want to be alone in a difficult situation but said the school chaplain and a retired staff member escorted her to her home on the school grounds.

Ms McShane said she had not considered taking disciplinary action against Mr Burke until after the incident.

But as she thought about it, she thought that a student who behaved like this would be disciplined.

Ms. McShane alleged that Mr. Burke had misrepresented the school’s position and that she had never asked Mr. Burke or any other teacher to “accept transgenderism” as he claimed.

Asked by the judge whether she had considered writing a letter to Mr Burke or warning him, she said she had thought about it a lot but said she would not write to him again.

This was now common knowledge and highly disrespectful to herself, to the Church, or to the student. She said that she thought this was gross misconduct.

Earlier the court heard that Mr Burke raised concerns with Ms McShane the previous year, about an anti-bullying display made by students, featuring an actor who identified as “gender neutral” the High Court has heard.

Ms. McShane said that she had several conversations with Mr. Burke about his belief system and how he had a hard time making certain things happen at school.

Ms McShane gave the example of ‘Stand Up’ week in November 2021. It was a week promoting anti-bullying initiatives, she said, and the goal was to educate young people about diversity and how we can sometimes target people for being different.

She said a group of students had put up an exhibition of famous people on a wall near their office and how they identified their gender and sexuality.

There was Harry Potter actor who identified as gender neutral. Mr. Burke took the poster to her and asked her if she was in favor of it. She said that it gave her the impression that he was very unhappy with it.

Ms McShane said it was not a heated discussion and was not brought up by Mr Burke until later.

Ms McShane also told the court about earlier conversations with Mr Burke as the school prepared to reopen following the Covid-19 pandemic. She said Mr Burke did not want to wear a face mask. But they argued and came to a compromise whereby they wore a face shield and socially distanced. She said that this was a time when they had compromised and found a way out.

The former principal said that in November 2021, a student asked to be identified by a different name and to use gender-neutral pronouns. It was the first time a student had asked for this kind of support and she wanted to make sure they did it the right way.

The case was due to start at 9:30am today but was adjourned until 11:00am after lawyers told the judge it was unclear whether Mr Burke was aware of the early start. When things resumed at 11am, there was still no trace of Mr Burke or his family, reports RTE.

Lawyers for the school said they understand Mr Burke may be in criminal courts where his brother Simeon was due to appear. The judge adjourned the matter for 15 minutes to allow contact with Mr Burke.

When the case resumed, Judge Owens was told that there was no response from Mr. Burke and the case was resumed, reports RTE.

Senior solicitor Alex White said the school’s lawyers had reviewed all of the document disclosure issues raised by Mr Burke yesterday and were providing them with additional documents.

Senior counsel Mark Connaughton told the court that Burke remained on the school’s payroll despite being told in January that he would be fired. Mister Connaughton said that Mr. Burke had argued that his appeal against his dismissal should not be heard until after these proceedings and that he would remain on parole until then, reports RTE.

He also told the court that Ms. McShane provided the contents of a report to the board at the August 15 meeting in which Mr. McShane met. Burke was not present, it was not discussed in that meeting. Mr Burke disputed this.

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