A primary school teacher who knocked over a pupil before “falling over drunk” and “left an open can of Stella in a classroom” has been suspended for two years.
Angela Simonson, 66, will now need to demonstrate she is fit to return to work after an Education Workforce Council (EWC) hearing found her guilty of “reprehensible behaviour” while at Central Primary School, Port Talbot.
The panel heard how colleagues reported the Year 4 teacher was slurring her words and “stinking of drink” as she struggled to stand straight in December 2014, WalesOnline reports.
The 66-year-old, who did not attend the hearing, said in a statement she could “neither recall nor explain” the allegations made against her.
While her legal counsel Jonathan Storey said the outlined behaviour was caused by a mix of her suffering from the side-effects of medication, an ongoing issue of “bad breath” due to her low-carb diet and wearing new high heels.
Recollecting an incident back in December 2014, Christine Jarvis, a lunchtime supervisor at Central Primary School at the time, said that Mrs Simonson was “stumbling” and “needed something to help her stand upright” in the playground during the lunchtime break.
She said: “She didn’t do what she usually did – instead of coming to the front of the line of children she leaned against the wall, she staggered to the classroom.
“She knocked into one of the children, waved her hands in the air and leaned against the wall.
“She was quite literally falling over drunk”.
An educator of 40 years, Mrs Simonson was described as a “lovely teacher that was quite eccentric”.
However, in December 2014 concerns were raised about her behaviour.
Jonathan Toft, who worked alongside Mrs Simonson as a Year 4 teacher, recollected one instance where she “was slurring, staggering and stinking of drink. We could smell it in the room, everybody could smell it”.
Robert Purchase, who was the headteacher at the time, told the hearing that, after concerns were raised about Mrs Simonson, an open and almost full can of Stella Artois was found “under the sink” in her classroom.
“The cupboard could have been accessed by a pupil at any time,” he said.
In her closing remarks, Presenting Officer Cadi Dewi said: “It was morally reprehensible behaviour and it was very clearly unacceptable.”
Another colleague who on December 8 saw her in “great distress” said that situation had been “out of character”.
Mrs Simonson contended her actions were because of drinking alcohol in school.
Her counsel Mr Storey acknowledged his client had “been drinking at home during a dinner party with friends” until around 11pm the night before.
She had, he said, consumed around three-quarters of a bottle of wine during that Sunday evening and “no more than 50mls” of beer the following morning because she was “thirsty”.
Mrs Simonson said she was “sorry” for her “unprofessional behaviour” but claimed it is impossible that such a small amount of alcohol would’ve caused it.
Mr Storey went on to say Mrs Simonson’s alleged smell of alcohol was no proof she’d consumed it on school grounds as it may have simply lingered on from the night before.
He also said that Mrs Simonson’s classroom was not locked and that a number of people would have had the opportunity to place a can of beer in the cupboard.
However, the EWC panel found that she was present at work on more than one occasion between 1-8 December 2014 smelling of alcohol, having consumed alcohol before or at work or was under the influence of alcohol.
They ruled these breaches amounted to a “lack of integrity” and “unacceptable professional conduct”.
Steve Powell, Lay Chair, said “instead of addressing her shortcomings, Mrs Simonson repeated her conduct in a single week in December 2014”.
If the 66-year-old wishes to return to the profession she has to provide regular assessments to the EWC about her health in order to assess her fitness to work.