The principal of a primary school who was suspended in June 2014 pending the investigation of a complaint that he assaulted a pupil with Asperger’s Syndrome denied saying to the school secretary afterwards, “I lost it”.
He also testified yesterday he was very sorry he upset the boy, but it was never his intention to assault the pupil.
Judge John King will give his judgment in the case next Monday after two full days of evidence at Cork District Court.
Cross-examining the accused, state solicitor John Brosnan said: “You were correct when you said you lost it. For whatever reason you just went too far on June 24, 2014.”
The accused said he did not use those words to the school secretary afterwards, and said all he wanted to do on the day was guide the nine-year-old from a potential danger to the safety of the classroom.
Defence solicitor Frank Buttimer said the boy had kicked an SNA in the stomach in his previous school. “There was a concern about the vice principal in this school because she was pregnant. And he has been violent towards himself on numerous occasions,” he said.
The boy’s mother, who was in the witness box, responded: “Does that give an adult the right to drag, kick, push a child to the wall, pin him to the wall and shout, ‘I am shit sick of you’ into his ear. Does that give an adult a right?”
Mr Buttimer said he was not there to answer questions but to ask them. The child’s mother said: “We are here for what happened to [her child] on that day.”
Mr Buttimer produced the minutes of a board of management meeting from about a month prior to the disputed incident, where it was noted that the principal said the parents had given him permission to physically restrain the boy. The child’s mother said in court: “I never gave him permission to restrain [boy’s name].”
Mr Buttimer said even on the basis of the child’s own evidence to the court, the principal had to physically restrain him to stop him from kicking his own mother one morning when she was dropping him to school.
The boy’s mother replied: “I don’t recall that.”
The principal said yesterday: “It has been very difficult for me. I loved that school, I loved the children, and I loved working with my colleagues. I never claimed to be the most fabulous teacher, but I would say I was totally dedicated and committed to the children, the school and the community. And I have been immediately sidelined.”
Mr Buttimer said that there was the investigation and prosecution by the DPP, the inquiry by the board of management, and the civil litigation by the family against the principal and the school.
“It has been very worrying for me as a father, as a husband, I found this so difficult to deal with. It has been very traumatic for me,” the principal replied.
The accused said the incident occurred on June 24, 2014, two days before the summer holidays, and that the boy was with a special needs teacher who also had the care of another pupil on the autistic spectrum who had just taken a scissors from the art room and cut a leg off her cuddly toy. The defendant said he felt that this girl was about to go into meltdown and that for the boy’s safety, he would take him away from this room and bring him back to class.
He said the boy resisted and he caught him first by the arm and then by the arm and shoulder. He was concerned the boy would bolt for it as he had run away four times in the previous months. He said the boy was interested in history and quite articulate and he put up extreme resistance and shouted at the principal: “This is a concentration camp, this is torture, this is child cruelty.”
The principal said he did not kick the boy’s legs going across the yard but thought it could have been perceived like that as they were moving close together. He said he did not pin him in the corner of the classroom with his hand to the boy’s head. He said he did say: “I am sick of you behaving like this”, but denied using the phrase, ‘sick shit’, adding: “I am a professional teacher. I never used that language to children in my care.”
He said the two women who witnessed the incident insisted on staying at the meeting where the chairman of the board of management and the boy’s mother and others were present, and he said it was like a circus and that the two women who witnessed it were accusing him of being an animal and a child molester.
The two women testified that they were visiting the school to make a delivery when they saw a man assaulting a pupil and they called the gardaí.
Mr Buttimer said they knew nothing of the boy’s background and why the principal was moving in the way that he was.
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