Dublin school called in Garda firearms unit over pictures of water pistol

Gardai were called to the home of a student in a Dublin school this summer after the school principal complained to them over images of a water pistol shared in a student’s whatsapp group, Gript Media can reveal.

On Wednesday June 21st of this year, parents and guardians of students at Ballinteer Educate Together National School received an email from that school’s principal, Mr. Paul O’Dwyer.

Mr. O’Dwyer told parents that he had contacted Gardai over a “serious incident” where “disturbing images” had been shared in a student’s whatsapp group. Mr. O’Dwyer wrote that he had been made aware of the incident “within the past 45 minutes” and that the student in question had been suspended for an initial two day period:

“I have been in contact with the family of the child concerned as well as the Chairperson of the Board of Management, Colette Kavanagh. A decision was reached that the child will not attend school for at least the next two days owing to the seriousness of the messages sent and the need to ensure the safety of our school community. Additionally, I made Dundrum Garda station aware of the issue.”

Please rest assured that the school’s management is treating this issue as extremely serious. I will be discussing it further with our Chairperson first thing tomorrow.

A second student was also, subsequently, suspended for sharing a similar image in the group.

Parents were not made aware of the nature of the “disturbing images” in question by the principal, which led to considerable speculation as to their nature.

The images, according to multiple parents familiar with the incident, were of a toy water pistol. The context was that students at the school were discussing the possibility of an end-of-year water pistol fight to celebrate the ending of the school year.

On foot of the school’s complaint to the Gardai, members of the Garda National Firearms unit paid a visit to the home of one of the students where it is understood the student was given warnings about the dangers of firearms.

The father of the child in question posted in a parents whatsapp group confirming that the incident had involved a water pistol, writing:

“I am (redacted) the father of the child who sent around the distressing image last tonight (sic). To reassure everyone members of an Garda Firearms Unit have visited the family home and have confirmed that the item in the photograph is a miniature plastic water pistol toy. (Son’s name) will NOT attend school today. I take this opportunity to apologise to all concerned. I will work with Principal Paul O’Dwyer over the coming days.”

The incident has been the subject of some disquiet amongst parents at the school, who believe that the school’s actions – and those of the gardai – constituted a considerable over-reaction.

One parent, speaking to Gript Media, described the incident as “f**king outrageous”. There were significant concerns about the nature of the email from the principal, which was felt to have suggested conduct much more serious than that which actually occurred. “When you read that distressing images and comments were shared, your mind immediately goes to almost anywhere other than a water pistol”, the parent said. “Your first reaction is that this is something violent, or sexual, or abusive. Those students must have felt like they were utter criminals, to be described that way. It was a water pistol, and they treated the child like he was a terrorist sympathiser”.

No comment from Ballinteer Educate Together national school was received at the time of publication. If a comment is received, this story will be updated to reflect that.

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