Teacher rejects as ‘absolute nonsense’ claims that he ‘shouted’ and ‘pulled’ at autistic pupil (9)

Inquiry hears of close relationship between mother and special needs assistant who made complaints

A teacher has rejected allegations that he acted aggressively towards an autistic child by “reefing” ear defenders from his head and shouting at him while he attempted to complete a jigsaw.

He also described as “absolute nonsense” allegations that he threatened to deny the child lunch (9) or that he pulled aggressively at the boy’s arm as he lay on the floor of the classroom.

The alleged incidents were the subject of complaints by a special needs assistant (SNA) who claims that she witnessed them in February 2019 while working with the child.

The teacher, and his principal, are facing allegations of professional misconduct at a fitness to teach inquiry.


The inquiry has directed that the teaching staff, pupil, parents and the school remain anonymous.

The pupil, who has limited verbal ability and is sensitive to noise, was in an autism class of six pupils with one teacher and two special needs assistants (SNAs) at a large mainstream primary school.

In relation to the first alleged incident on February 5th, 2019, the SNA alleged that she witnessed the pupil getting distressed while being asked to complete a jigsaw, whereupon she claimed the teacher removed the boy’s ear defenders without warning, before shouting: “Hurry up ... do your work, or you won’t get your lunch”.

On Thursday, the teacher described the allegations as “preposterous” and said he had never shouted at any pupils in the special class.

He said he first became aware of the allegations when the school principal showed him the SNA’s written complaint about a fortnight later.

“I couldn’t understand what I was reading, I was in disbelief ... I couldn’t make head nor tail of what she was talking about ... After I read through it, I said to the principal, ‘this didn’t happen’,” he said.

A second allegation from the SNA relates to events on February 26th of the same month, when the child arrived into class upset and ran into the bathroom where he hit his head forcefully against the mirror, before collapsing on the floor of the classroom.

The SNA claimed the teacher shouted at the child and “aggressively” pulled the student’s arm, causing more distress to the child.

When asked if there was any physical contact with the boy, the teacher responded: “No, it’s not in my nature.”

The teacher also said he only became aware later of the extent of the close relationship between the SNA and the child’s mother. He said he was aware they had gone on holidays together and she had photos of the pupil and his family at Christmas time on her phone.

The inquiry has been adjourned.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent