'harmful' | 

Concerned pupils wrote letter to Enoch Burke over ‘disruption' caused by his presence at school

But it is understood Mr Burke declined to take delivery of the letter

Enoch Burke pictured in Mullingar last week. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Ali BrackenSunday Independent

The student council at Wilson’s Hospital School wrote a letter to teacher Enoch Burke expressing concerns about his ongoing attendance there since his release from Mountjoy Prison.

The letter, which a member of the pupils’ body tried to hand to Mr Burke on January 13, outlined a number of concerns students had about the teacher’s presence at the school.

These included fears from LGBTQ+ students that Mr Burke would say “something harmful to gain publicity”.

Mr Burke had been attending the school regularly to protest against his suspension. He was dismissed from his job last Friday night.

However, it is understood Mr Burke would not accept the delivery of the letter. While in the school over several days this month, the teacher was confined to a corridor and kept away from students.

In the letter, obtained by the Sunday Independent, the student council wrote to Mr Burke to say: “To many LGBTQI+ students your presence here is a daily reminder of the prejudices they feel from you.”

They said they were “fearful that something may be said to them by you if there was a moment where [teacher] or [teacher] were not supervising you.

“Students are scared that you may say something harmful to them for further publicity. Students feel that they can’t be themselves around you and have to change the way they act. We should not have to do this.”

There is no suggestion the former teacher ever posed any threat to the students at the school.

Mr Burke was dismissed from his position at the school in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath, on Friday following a disciplinary process.

He had been jailed for contempt of court in early September after breaching a High Court injunction directing him to stay away from the school.

He had been suspended on full pay by the school as part of a disciplinary process, following a row over a request from a student to be addressed by a new name and for “they/them” pronouns to be used.

Mr Burke, an evangelical Christian, said that to do so would violate his religious beliefs.

He was released from Mountjoy Prison on December 21, after a judge said he was “exploiting his imprisonment for his own ends”, but continued to attend at Wilson’s Hospital School since it reopened on January 5 after the Christmas holidays.

The student council letter also alleged other ways the teacher’s presence at the school caused disruption.

“We believe if you cared about the students at this school, as you claim to do, then why would you continue to cause this disruption to our school life,” it stated.

“The press being here is a huge disruption to our parents and family and as the Student Council we are worried about the reputation of the school.”

The correspondence goes on to list a number of other effects the pupils claim Mr Burke’s presence at the school was having.

When he attended the school after the Christmas break, he stayed in a corridor under supervision by other members of staff. According to the student council, his presence affected crowds in the corridors and had forced some students to go outside “into wet and windy conditions” in order to get to class.

On Friday evening the teacher issued a statement confirming his employment had been terminated earlier that day. The move came a day after a disciplinary meeting attended by the teacher and members of his family descended into chaos.

Gardaí were called to the meeting, held by the school’s board of management, after Mr Burke, his mother Martina, sister Ammi and brother Isaac loudly objected to the presence of two lawyers and the absence of the board’s chairman.

Mr Burke’s statement said he had attended Wilson’s Hospital School on Friday.

“He was informed in person at 3:30pm this afternoon in the presence of chairperson of the board of management John Rogers and principal Frank Milling that he was dismissed,” it read.

The brief statement again highlighted Mr Burke’s objection to the presence of the lawyers and Mr Rogers’ absence from the disciplinary meeting.

Mr Burke had been suspended since last August but continued to show up for work, even after the school secured High Court orders restraining him from doing so.

This led to him being jailed for 108 days for contempt of court.

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