Parents withdraw children from school

Parents voice concerns amid allegations that a male pupil carried out inappropriate touching of female pupils

Families from North Kerry pictured in The Kerryman offices in Tralee where they revealed their concerns over allegations that a male pupil carried out inappropriate acts of a sexual nature against their children
Families from North Kerry pictured in The Kerryman offices in Tralee where they revealed their concerns over allegations that a male pupil carried out inappropriate acts of a sexual nature against their children

Sinead Kelleher

Two families have withdrawn their children from a North Kerry school amid allegations that a male pupil carried out inappropriate acts of a sexual nature on their children.

One member of the board has also stepped down from the board over the handling of complaints by management.

The three complaints all refer to inappropriate touching of female pupils by a male pupil at the school.

The first incident occurred in June of 2016 when it is alleged that the male child touched the backside of a girl and referred to the incident as using his finger.

The child reported it to the class teacher. The parents were not informed by the school, they say, but having been told by the child of the incident, they trusted it to be dealt with in accordance with procedures.

The second incident involved two students and occurred almost a year later during break-time. This was referred to by the school as "inappropriate touching" and in this case the girls, it is alleged, were touched in their private parts by the same pupil.

The parents were informed by the principal in this case.

One of the parents involved went to the school the following day and raised the previous issue, from June 2016, which also involved her daughter. She claims that procedures were not completed in relation to the 2016 incident and that a procedure should have been put in place to prevent a recurrence.

The same parent then wrote to the Board of Management to make a formal complaint.

The matter had been not been resolved by September 2017 and the The Department of Education became involved as the parents of one of the girls involved had not returned their children to the school. This family have since removed their children from the school.

The Board of Management, union reps and the two families involved met in October 2017. A report was prepared by the parents for the Board. The board subsequently voted that procedure was followed but parents disputed this.

One of the parents also contacted the Bishop of Kerry seeking his intervention as the patron of the school as they were unhappy at the handling of their complaint. They met with him in March of this year.

The parents are calling on Tusla to intervene and the patron of the school to get involved and dissolve the board. The patron can, in accordance with section 16 of the Eduction Act 1998 and in consent with the minister, remove a member of the board or dissolve the Board of Management for stated reasons.

In a letter sent to the parents he said that he can only do so if the parents write a letter of the allegations against the board. They claim that this information has been provided in previous correspondence and at a meeting with him.

A third incident arose in the school year - this time involving a separate family who have also now contacted both the principal, the Board of Management and Tusla.

This family have also written to the Board seeking clarification on their handling of the situation.

They say that they are worried about their child's safety after "she was groped" in class and they allege that the code of behaviour of the school was not followed. They have now removed their children from the school.

"We fear that this will happen again going forward. We are trying to protect our children,"

"We feel that they have failed in the duty of care to our daughters, and that they have not provided a happy safe environment."

In response to the queries from The Kerryman the principal issued a statement from the Board of Management stating that they have followed procedures.

"The BOM wishes to reassure parents that all procedures are followed in all cases," they said in statement.

The Bishop of Kerry is also stating that he too has followed procedure.

In a statement from Tusla they said that they all referrals are screened and assessed in line with 'Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children'.

Kerryman

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