A teacher who lied about attending a funeral – four days before the person in question had died – has been banned from the profession for life after a Teaching Regulation Agency hearing.
Dionne Bryan, 38, who was a Reception class teacher at Portway Primary School in East London, also used false medical letters to explain a separate absence.
On one occasion, she claimed to be attending her brother’s funeral in the United States, when she was, in fact, in Jamaica.
She also claimed she was absent for the funeral on a date that preceded his death by four days.
Ms Bryan submitted doctored medical letters stating she was absent from school for surgery when this was found to be untrue.
Ms Bryan was absent from work from 24 May to 8 June 2018 on normal working days, during which time she claimed to have been attending her brother’s funeral in America.
However, in explanation for her absence on 24 and 25 May that year, she later provided the school with an order of service for the funeral dated 16 June. The individual named in the order of service had died on 28 May 2018.
Teacher lied about school absence
The panel heard written evidence from one witness who stated that: “Due to the inconsistencies in the timeframe, I made an internet search on the information provided on her brother’s death.”
The witness found that “the person Ms Bryan presented as her brother was killed on 28 May” yet during an investigation meeting, she had confirmed she was in Florida from 24 May “to deal with the tragedy, which was four days before the man presented as Ms Bryan’s brother had been killed”.
The panel found the witness’ evidence to be credible, as it was supported by an obituary page and crime stoppers’ poster, which referred to her relative’s later date of death.
Ms Bryan did not provide the school with a death certificate or flight confirmation for her absence. Furthermore, a text sent to the same witness on 4 June 2018 was from an international dialling code from Kingston, Jamaica, rather than the USA, where she had claimed the funeral was held.
The panel found an allegation that Ms Bryan had given a false reason for her absence to be proven.
Ms Bryan was also found to have lied about the nature of her relationship with the deceased.
In an email from August 2019, she wrote: “With regards to the deceased, he is a family member. He is my nephew and not my brother."
In 2017, Ms Bryan was also found to have lied about a surgical procedure, giving her school false medical letters to explain a leave of absence.
Ms Bryan also lied about being unable to attend meetings at school while recovering from surgery.
In a school investigation meeting, she admitted: “The surgery letter is also fake – I used my previous letter from when I have had the surgery before”.
She admitted to travelling abroad during her absence for the purported surgery. The panel saw a timestamp from Ms Bryan’s passport, and the same witness confirmed that “the stamp was dated one day after the first fake medical certificate was produced” and, he concluded, “the absence had been pre-planned”.
In relation to an absence in June 2018, Ms Bryan told the school she had been in contact with police over a domestic violence incident. However, an email from the police, which she submitted to the panel, included a crime reference number but with no further details about the type of crime referred to.
And, during the school’s own investigation, a witness stated that “neither the police nor social care" had any record of the incident.
The witness said: “I spoke to both the police and social services before I made a referral for Ms Bryan’s wellbeing. They both checked and could not find any record of Ms Bryan having reported an incident.”
In July 2018, Ms Bryan told the school she was staying at her sister’s home in Birmingham to flee a domestic violence incident.
The panel saw screenshots of telephone calls made by Ms Bryan to the school on 17 July 2018, which were from an international telephone number.
Furthermore, the panel noted that email evidence sent by Ms Bryan on 20 July 2018 regarding her absence were five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.
In written evidence, the same witness stated he had researched which countries were five hours behind the UK and confirmed that Jamaica was on this list.
The panel therefore found an allegation that Ms Bryan had claimed to be staying in Birmingham to escape domestic violence when she was really in Jamaica for all or part of that time to be proven.
The panel also heard evidence that Ms Bryan had been absent for 61 days during one academic year. While it acknowledged that this in itself was not indicative of failing to maintain professional standards – as a teacher might have a long-term illness – it found Ms Bryan had failed to justify her absence.
It found that in 2017, a period of absence lasting 31 days had been supported by false medical documents.
Alan Meyrick, acting on behalf of the secretary of state, considered the panel’s view that they were “appalled by her continued abuse of the trust of the school” and banned Ms Bryan from teaching indefinitely.
He added that “in view of the seriousness of the allegations found proven against her”, she should not be eligible to apply to overturn the ban in the future.