Monday 10 December 2018

Irish teacher jailed in US for sexual assault following improper relationships with students

Dillon Gaffney
Dillon Gaffney
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

An Irish teacher has been jailed in the US for having improper relationships with students.

Dillon Gaffney, originally from Kildare, was handed down six different sentences of eight years in prison last month. All the sentences will run concurrently.

Gaffney was convicted on three counts for improper relationship with a student and on three charges of sexual assault of a child, US officials confirmed to Independent.ie.

Gaffney, who is 25 years old, worked as a football coach and social studies teacher at Palacios High School in Texas between 2015 and 2016, which is when the offences occurred, according to District Attorney Steven Reis.

It is understood he travelled from Ireland to the US on a soccer scholarship.

He was arrested in August 2017 and he was detained in Matagorda County Jail under $375,000 (€318,000) bond.

Dillon Gaffney
Dillon Gaffney

A representative for Matagorda County Jail told Independent.ie that Gaffney pleaded guilty to all six charges on May 3 last. 

Gaffney received an eight-year prison sentence at Matagorda County District Court for each of the six convictions last month, which will run concurrently.

He was fined $10,000 (€8,500) for one of the three Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student convictions.

Gaffney was also registered as a sex offender.

He is currently being held in the Holliday Transfer Facility in Huntsville, Texas.

Gaffney is not due to be released from prison until August 2025 but could be eligible for parole by August 2021.

The Palacios Independent School District released a statement shortly after his arrest, saying they do their best to "thoroughly vet" employees.

Dr Alexandro Flores, Superintendent of Schools Palacios ISD, said: "We are deeply disappointed to notify of the recent arrest of former Palacios High School Teach/Coach, Dillon Gaffney for having an inappropriate relationship with at least one former student during his time working with our district. 

"Mr Gaffney worked for our district during the 2015-2016 school year as a social studies teacher/assistant soccer coach. 

"At no point during his tenure here were we made aware of any inappropriate interactions between Mr Gaffney and any of our students. 

"Regardless of our district’s best efforts to thoroughly vet and screen all incoming employees, we cannot ultimately predict the future behaviours or actions to be displayed by our staff."

Dr Flores continued to say that the school district strives to protect well-being of students.

"What we can tell you with certainty is that we will always follow up and investigate any claims, allegations, or reports regarding inappropriate contact of any kind between staff and students and will not hesitate to take immediate and effective action when necessary and warranted. 

"Unfortunately, we live in a time where these kinds of incidents can occur anywhere, even in smaller rural districts such as our own. No one is truly immune... 

"The safety and security of our students will always remain the top priority of our organisation and we will continue to work tirelessly to improve upon any best practices which support and increase the safety of our children.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs told Independent.ie that they "cannot comment on individual consular cases."

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