Thursday 22 February 2018

Principal 'who assaulted autistic student (9)' ordered to undergo anger management

Stock photo
Stock photo
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A PRIMARY school principal accused of assaulting a nine year old autistic student by dragging him into a classroom and kicking his legs has been ordered by a District Court judge to undergo anger management training.

Judge John King ruled that the facts against the principal were proved but he opted not to record a conviction against the man.

Judge King told Cork District Court that while he believed the teacher was "reckless" in his dealing with the autistic child two years ago, he accepted that the man had a previously impeccable record and had made a major contribution both to his school and his community.

He also noted that the child had not been physically injured in the incident.

The judge noted that he relied on the evidence of independent witnesses and not specifically on the testimony of the child.

Judge King ruled that a conviction would not be recorded and dealt with the case through a conditional discharge under the Probation Act.

He ordered that the principal pay €360 witness expenses, enter a personal bond of €700 and undergo anger management training.

That anger management training must be undertaken within the next year.

Judge King said he believed the facts, as outlined by the State, were proved and that the principal had been reckless in his handling of the child.

He also said there was no excuse or justification for the man's actions which were described as "shocking" and "excessive" by a number of witnesses.

 The teacher had denied the assault and shouting at the hysterical boy that he was “sick shit” of him and his disruptive behaviour.

 The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, was described as “a caring educator” and has been on suspension since the complaint was first made almost two years ago.

 The complainant, who was nine years old at the time, is on the autistic spectrum.

 During the two day trial, two women told Cork Distict Court they contacted Gardaí

 after witnessing a man drag a screaming child towards a classroom and appear to kick his legs to try and get the youngster to walk unaided.

 The women said they saw the man dragging the child from a school yard towards a classroom in June 2014 despite the fact the child kept screaming for his mother.

 They said the boy bounced against a wall while this was happening and he started shouting loudly for help.

 One woman said she later thought the child was “hysterical” in the classroom.

 The women, who contacted Gardaí over the matter, acknowledged that they also confronted the man.

 One woman said she was very annoyed with the man and called him “an animal” at the scene.

 The child’s mother was then contacted and attended the school premises.

 The two women said they did not know the man was in fact the school principal.

 However, the teacher vehemently denied any suggestion of assaulting the boy and insisted he was only trying to protect him.

 He insisted the child was not struck – and explained he had his arm firmly around the boy, which was seen by the two women, only in a bid to deal with the child’s challenging behaviour.

 The principal, who gave evidence in his own defence, denied either kicking the boy or pushing him against a wall.

 He insisted his efforts were solely to protect the child, himself and other staff members.

 The principal’s defence team pointed out that the child had previously engaged in physically disruptive behaviour when being brought into the school in the morning.

 The teacher apologised for any upset caused but insisted he was only trying to be firm with the child for his protection and that of others.

 He added that his suspension had been “very traumatic and worrying” for him and his family.

 In evidence, the boy’s mother insisted she never gave permission for her son to be physically restrained.

 The trial heard that the boy posed significant management challenges for the school.

 The child had run away from the school in question several times before during class time.

 He also had a history of highly disruptive issues from two previous schools he had attended.

 The child had also self-harmed.

 The incident complained of arose when the defendant was alleged to have confronted the boy and demanded that he go to a classroom for a planned test.

“He dragged me out. Halfway up to the classroom I kept yelling out ‘help’. I did not want it to go on any longer,” the boy said in a Garda interview.

“He dragged me into the classroom. Everyone was looking at me or him - I don’t know. He turned back and yelled at me: ‘I am sick shit of you’. I was in shock, kind of. He was trying to be a smart-ass about it,” he added.

 The boy complained that marks were left on his arm where he had been grabbed by the teacher.

 The child suffers from anxiety issues over being separated from his family.

 He said that the alleged incidents had left him feeling: “scared, worried and hurt.”


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