Teacher accused in Bobby Sands mug case should know outcome this month
Teacher James Beattie and Councillor James Bollan.
By Bill Heaney
A decision in the case of teacher Jim Beattie, who is accused of having a Bobby Sands mug and Free Derry Christmas card in his Modern Studies classroom at Our Lady and St Patrick’s secondary school in Dumbarton, will be decided by the General Teaching Council in Edinburgh later this month.
Bobby Sands was a Provisional IRA hunger striker who took part in a “dirty” protest at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland and was elected on a Sinn Fein ticket from his jail cell to the UK Parliament at Westminster.
Mr Beattie, who lives in Dumbarton, appeared before the General Teaching Council for Scotland in December last year before the case was postponed until January. However, it never resumed.
Almost 22,000 people, including fellow staff members and pupils of the school which has now moved to Bellsmyre, signed a petition calling for the teacher to be allowed to remain in post.
The GTCS hearing began again on Tuesday, September 4, and it is estimated it will continue until September 25.
Mr Beattie asked for the case to be heard in private, which was denied by the GTCS.
A GTCS spokesman explained the delay was “unfortunate” but “unavoidable” so the full facts of the case could be established.
He added: “There was an application made for this hearing to be heard in private.
“This was rejected by a panel and the hearing will take place [this month]. Notice of public hearings is posted on our website.
“This is because of a range of factors including the application for a hearing in private; the deliberations of the panel; the legal arguments made on either side; and then the arrangements requiring to be made to find a hearing date that suited all of those involved, particularly taking into account the summer holidays. We appreciate any delay is unfortunate but it is unavoidable.”
Amongst a string of complaints, Mr Beattie is alleged to have written the term “Hun town” in his notes and having a Free Derry Christmas card and postcard, and a mug bearing an image of Bobby Sands.
He is also alleged to have used “prior knowledge” of a Modern Studies examination to “advise pupils on the areas to study in advance” of an exam and of having “inappropriate contact with pupils personally by email”.
Mr Beattie, who denies his ability to teach was impaired, was moved by West Dunbartonshire Council to Vale of Leven Academy after the concerns were brought to light.
At the time, a spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Council said: “West Dunbartonshire Council expects the highest standards from all of its teachers and stipulates that staff must meet the requirements of the General Teaching Council for Scotland.”
The GTCS website states a temporary restriction has been placed on the teacher’s licence until the hearing has concluded. He could be struck off if the complaints against him are upheld.
Leven councillor Jim Bollan has pledged his support for the teacher, whom he says left the school in 2014 following an internal disciplinary process by West Dunbartonshire Council.
Cllr Bollan said: “He was cleared. He went through the normal grievance procedure which ended up at the appeals committee and he was cleared.
“I understand it was felt at the time because of the circumstances he should work at the Vale of Leven Academy.
“To have taken this to another level just seems crazy to me. It seems like double jeopardy.”
The petition was created by Vale of Leven Academy pupil, Anisha Tagore. Cllr Bollan is one of the 22,000 people who have now signed it.