Belfast Telegraph

Mum's anger as Northern Ireland school bans special needs boy (5) from Santa visit

By Leona O'Neill

A five-year-old boy with special education needs has been left heartbroken after his school refused to allow him to go on a Santa trip because of his behavioural issues.

Young Riley McCauley is a pupil at St Joseph's Primary School in Glenmornan, near Strabane in Co Tyrone.

He was due to visit Santa at Barrontop Farm alongside his primary two classmates this week.

Riley had his Santa list learned off by heart to recite to Father Christmas and was so excited about the trip he couldn't sleep.

However, his mother Emma says his school decided he wasn't allowed to go.

Heartbroken Riley now thinks Santa isn't coming to visit him on Christmas Day "because he did something wrong".

His mum, who is seeking to have him moved to another school, said he won't be returning to St Joseph's.

"Riley was really looking forward to going to see Santa," Emma said.

"His class were going to Barrontop Farm this week. He was planning on telling Santa that he wanted a tablet and a battery-operated car.

"The school informed me on Monday that Riley was not allowed to go and see Santa due to his behavioural issues. I was so upset, I cried all day. Riley was in tears because he thought Santa wasn't going to come on Christmas Day because he was bad.

"He just didn't understand why he wasn't able to go.

"The school said that maybe he could go if I came with him, but my daughter is severely epileptic and I can never be more than 10 minutes away from her in her creche to administer medicine when she has a fit."

Emma says she hasn't the heart to tell her son that he can't meet Santa.

"The school told me he could sit in the classroom with his classroom assistant while the other children were away," she added.

"It broke my heart to imagine him watching all the other children putting their coats on and getting ready to go and being so excited about meeting Santa and him sitting there not allowed to go, so I kept him off school.

"He keeps asking why he couldn't go, I haven't the heart to tell him the truth."

Riley lives with 47XYY Syndrome, a rare genetic condition also referred to as Jacobs Syndrome that affects 1 in 1,000 boys and means he has an extra male chromosome.

The condition is usually associated with an autism diagnosis, attention difficulties, emotional and behavioural issues, and involuntary muscle movements.

His mother says she has long been campaigning for him to be moved to another Strabane school that caters for pupils with special education needs but says she has been told that he doesn't fit the criteria.

"Riley has a chromosome disorder and is being assessed for autism," she added.

"I know he has issues. He is prone to outbursts and is impulsive and can have violent tendencies. I have been fighting to get him moved from this mainstream school to Knockavoe Special School where they would be able to meet his needs."

She added: "We had gone to his school nativity play last week.

"He had been looking forward to getting up on the stage and singing, and had been practising his songs at home but he was not allowed to take part, because he can't stand at peace.

"He was heartbroken.

"I felt so sorry for him then and now this.

"He is only five years old and he can't understand why he can't see Santa.

"I've tried to make light of it and tell him it's because he's a rascal on the bus and that it's not because Santa doesn't like him or doesn't want to see him.

Emma says she is refusing to send her young son back to the school and wants him moved to Knockavoe, which she feels would be better placed to cope with his unique needs.

"Once he is assessed I will hopefully be able to find him a school that can take him until I get him accepted into Knockavoe, where he should have been all along."

St Joseph's Primary School was contacted for comment but declined to make a statement on the matter.

The Education Authority was also contacted, but had also failed to respond to requests for comment last night.

Belfast Telegraph

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