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01st Jul 2023

Teacher who was sacked after avoiding work for 20 years defends herself

She was reportedly absent for the entirety of her first 10 years at the school.

A secondary school teacher, who was fired after it came to light that she had been absent for 20 years of her 24-year-long career, has defended herself.

Cinzia Paolina De Lio taught at a school near Venice, Italy, and reportedly used a combination of sick leave, holiday time and permits to attend conferences to avoid giving lessons.

Remarkably, she managed to get away with this tactic for a staggering two decades.

De Lio was initially sacked in 2017 after prompting complaints for being “unprepared” and “inattentive” when she returned to work for four months a couple of years earlier.

But she took the dismissal to court, and the following year a judge in Venice ordered that she be reinstated to her role.

The education minister, Unhappy with the decision, launched a counter-appeal, which went to Italy’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Cassation.

Last week, the court reversed the decision to reinstate De Lio, labelling the two decades of absence as a sign of “permanent and absolute ineptitude.”

Hitting out at the ruling, the history and philosophy teacher vowed to tell her side of the story and said she had documents to disprove the idea she had been absent for 20 years.

“Sorry, but right now I’m at the beach,” she told Repubblica newspaper.

“I will reconstruct the truth of the facts of this absolutely unique and surreal story.

“I don’t answer questions from journalists thrown around that wouldn’t do justice to the truth of my story.”

In the Court of Cassation case, the minister had argued that De Lio had been absent from the classroom for 20 of her 24-year-long career – including the entirety of her first 10 years.

The BBC reports that in the following 14 years, her absences were attributed to sickness, personal or family reasons.

When she did eventually return to the classroom in 2015, students complained about her “random and improvised” way of marking, lack of preparedness and failure to bring textbooks to lessons.

De Lio defended herself in court by arguing that she had the right to “freedom of teaching.”

The court rejected this, arguing it was the teacher’s responsibility to guarantee students’ right to study.