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Parents 'concerned' as principal guilty of assaulting pupil returns to school

The man – who was not convicted – has returned to the school in his former role, three years after the incident.

Image: Shutterstock/Anna Jurkovska

SOME PARENTS HAVE told TheJournal.ie of their concern that a principal found guilty of assaulting a pupil with Asperger’s syndrome has returned to his former role.

Other parents and members of staff, however, are understood to be supportive of his return.

TheJournal.ie has received a number of emails from parents of children at the school who said they were very happy with the principal’s return, as are their children.

The principal, who works at a school in the south of the country, was found guilty but not convicted of assaulting the child, according to court reports in the Irish Times and Irish Examiner.

The incident occurred in June 2014 and led to the principal being suspended from his role.

He was given a conditional discharge under the Probation Act arising out of exceptional circumstances, and also an undertaking to be of good behaviour and to take an anger management course, the Irish Times reported in March 2016.

The verdict was given after two days of evidence. Some members of staff gave evidence during the court case.

The judge accepted that the principal was “overworked and understaffed… had an exceptional record and was well-respected”, reported The Irish Times.

The principal told the court that the investigation was “very difficult” and “traumatic” for him. He said that he “loved the school, I loved the children and I loved working with my colleagues”, the Irish Examiner reported at the time. He also told the court, “I would say I was totally dedicated and committed to the children, the school and the community”.

The judge said that the principal had “no lawful excuse” for his actions, but that he accepted what happened was “totally out of character” for the man, the Irish Times reported.

A number of parents, who did not want to be named, told TheJournal.ie that they are concerned about the principal’s return to the school, saying they had not been informed about his return until they received a letter in August. The letter, seen by TheJournal.ie, was not sent by the Principal.

It’s understood that teachers were informed about the decision prior to this.

There are a number of children with autism and special needs at the school.

One parent told TheJournal.ie that they believed the teacher should not return to his previous role.

“I think the board of education should have removed him from the school and put him into a desk job,” they said.

This parent also criticised the fact they were told about his return so near to the new school year beginning.

“To find out the week before school [was] ridiculous. How did they come to the conclusion that he is capable to come back as a full-time teacher/principal?” they said.

A letter was sent out about the new school year, which contains the names of the teachers and the returning principal.

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“Yes, we’re all entitled to a second chance, but he was found guilty,” said a parent. “He was in a position of power, OK, he didn’t get a conviction but how on earth can they take him back as a working principal?”

However, it’s understood the principal is supported by some parents and members of staff.

Another parent said they are “appalled” by the decision, adding:

“He shouldn’t have got his job back. If they were to do something, maybe a desk job in another part of the education system.”

The Board of Management of the school has been contacted for comment, but has not returned TheJournal.ie‘s emails or phone calls.

The Department of Education said it “cannot comment in relation to matters about individual teachers”.

However, it said it can comment in general as follows:

Under the provisions of the Education Act, 1998, the board of management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school. The Board of Management is the employer of teaching and other staff and has similar powers to any other employer.
The Department has issued child protection procedures for schools, based on the national Children First National guidelines, which give direction and guidance to school management authorities and school personnel in implementing Children First within the school setting.  These procedures apply to all primary and post-primary schools.
In relation to Garda vetting, all school authorities are required to comply with the requirements of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016  and with relevant Department’s circulars in relation to Garda vetting of school personnel and other persons who undertake relevant work or activities with children or vulnerable persons.

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