Belfast Telegraph

Parents at Belfast's school De La Salle left 'horrified' with report's findings

By Allan Preston

A group of concerned parents have welcomed the publication of a report into a crisis-hit west Belfast school - but remain "horrified" at some of its findings.

Earlier this week De La Salle College was criticised for failings in its child protection measures after three pupils complained that a priest invited to the school asked them about their sex lives during confession.

An independent review ordered by De La Salle College's board of governors in January detailed several flaws in how the school dealt with the matter.

In a statement posted on social media last night, the school's concerned parents committee said they broadly welcomed the report "and in particular the recommendations stemming from it".

But it was "horrified to learn from this report that a highly sensitive confidential child protection file has been 'lost'."

"If lost, we ask the question, has this loss of personal data by a public body been reported to the Northern Ireland Information Commissioners Office?" the group asked.

"We can't begin to imagine how this child and his parents must feel, knowing that such personal information is in the hands of persons unknown."

The parents' group said it was "disgusted" to learn about the activities of the priest who had quizzed children about sexual matters in confession, saying that the incident raised further questions about the management of the school.

"Most important to us parents is the ultimate protection and well-being of our children," the group said.

"We are absolutely disgusted to learn that after what this priest done in the school, our children were brought to visit the same priest in Dublin on more than one occasion.

"We would like to know why did those in authority allow these trips to happen when they knew of the disclosures that had been made about this priest?

"Were these trips appropriately risk assessed?" they asked.

"Who authorised these trips? Was the teacher in charge of these trips briefed regarding the allegations against this priest?"

In their statement, the committee also paid tribute to the work of "amazing teachers" at the troubled school, who are trying to carry out their roles and responsibilities.

"This committee has a total respect for the majority of teachers who continue to provide a sterling teaching experience to our children while they continue to experience ongoing difficulties and challenges.

"Those teachers and the school will always have our full support."

They also stated: "As many parents will have similar sentiments to the committee we are pleased that it has now been publicly acknowledged that these horrendous incidents and the subsequent visits to Dublin did in fact take place," they said.

In an open letter to parents, De La Salle board of governors chair Monica Culbert welcomed the report and was "wholly committed" to implementing the report's recommendations.

The review team acknowledged that the "college staff has engaged in considerable efforts to rectify the deficiencies".

This includes a detailed action plan for 2017, although the report warned constant staff changes and absence means there is "major concern" over the plan's long-term sustainability.

Belfast Telegraph


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