Tuesday 16 January 2018

Teens set fire to school toy-shed for children with autism

(stock image)
(stock image)
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

Gardai are investigating an arson attack in which two teenagers set fire to a toy-shed at a school for children with autism.

Two teenagers were captured on CCTV climbing over a fence at Cara Junior School in Mayfield, Cork at around 9.25pm on Monday night and setting the toy-shed on fire.

The school caters for 60 pupils with autism and the toy-shed contained specialist toys used by the pupils, all of which were destroyed in the fire.

Principal Emir Duffy said that the arson attack will have a huge impact on the 60 pupils as their routine would be disrupted.

“The children’s routine will be disrupted because we centre their timetables on playing outside. We will have children who can’t do what they usually do and that can cause a lot of them to become very anxious.

“Today, it means 60 children cannot get out into the garden. They can’t use the sensory garden, the bicycle track, and can’t use the basketball court. Even some of the fence is melted because of the fire.

“We’re lucky that it was raining yesterday because the children had no expectations of going outside,” said Duffy.

The school, established just over two years ago, caters for about 60 children ranging in age from four to 12 with autism and intellectual disability. Most of the children are non-verbal.

“There isn’t huge damage done, a couple of hundred euro will replace the shed and toys. We’re lucky we’re coming up to the summer holidays and it can all be replaced by the time the students come back in September.”

Duffy said the school has been a target of vandalism before and that it’s “very worrying” for the school.

“We’ve had windows broken and bicycles stolen. There aren’t enough community facilities for young people and they’re at a loose end. They do it for the kicks,” said Duffy.

Duffy said the incident is “very unfortunate” but there is no long-term damage.

Gardai are examining the CCTV footage and have appealed to anyone with information.

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