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School CP - June 2003

Irish Times, Dublin, 26 June 2003

13 claims of corporal punishment investigated in primary schools

By Kathryn Holmquist
Education Correspondent

Thirteen cases of alleged corporal punishment in primary schools have been investigated by the Department of Education in the last school year.

The disclosure comes 21 years after the use of corporal punishment was banned in schools and 16 years [actually 7 years - C.F.] after it was made a criminal offence.

According to information obtained by The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, of the 13 cases, one remains unresolved and continues to be under investigation by the Department.

The parents making the allegations would have been advised to contact the Garda [police - C.F.], as is routine in these cases, the Department stated.

The only known prosecution in the past 16 years in a primary school occurred in the south-west in 1999, when Mr Laurence Begley, a school principal, was convicted of assaulting a 12-year-old pupil after pleading guilty. Of the 13 cases in 2002, one was subsequently withdrawn by the parent. Five cases were not pursued further by the Department after the parent was directed to address the complaint to the school board of management, as is common practice.

Three cases were resolved between the parent and the board of management of the schools concerned. A further three cases were pursued by the Department but allegations were unsubstantiated.

The single unresolved case is being investigated by an inspector in the Department, who will have interviewed the parents and the person against whom the allegation has been made.

The support of the National Educational Psychological Service has been made available to the child. Cases of extreme behaviour by children are on the increase, Mr Seán Cotterell, chief executive of the Irish Primary Principals Network responded last night. While corporal punishment was not an issue among the current generation of teachers, Mr Cotterell said, there remained severe difficulties in managing some children who did not respond to rational sanctions and more psychological support was required.

According to the INTO, "there is an urgent need for promised guidelines on revised codes of behaviour to be developed. Schools need effective sanctions in exceptional cases up to and including expulsion".

Mr Paul Gilligan, chief executive of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children called for a total ban on corporal punishment in the home, as well as school. Because "reasonable chastisement" was still allowed in the home by parents and childminders, there continued to be "ambivalence" concerning the physical punishment of children among adults, he said.

© The Irish Times

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