A confidential education report on a special needs boy was given to a senior infants class to use as a colouring project.
An investigation is under way into the incident, which occurred at a Co Tipperary primary school.
Five and six-year-olds in a senior infants class were given sheets of A4 paper for a colouring exercise. But pages inexplicably came from a report into how teachers at the school should manage an older boy with emotional and special education issues.
Youngsters were asked by a teacher to undertake a drawing exercise on “blank” A4 pages that were handed out.
However, the detailed assessment of the 10-year-old boy’s education needs were clearly legible on the reverse side of the page.
It is suspected the report pages were accidentally mixed up with blank A4 pages intended for classwork.
The incident came to light when the youngsters were told to take their colouring exercise home – and an older sibling of one of the children became curious about the writing on the reverse side of the A4 page.
The older student immediately realised the significance of the material and brought it to the attention of his parents – and they were horrified by what they read.
“I’m not sure what I was more horrified by – the fact that the privacy of this boy was breached in such an appalling manner or the way in which his education needs were being discussed,” one parent said.
“The only way I can describe it was that it was like something from Ireland back in the 1940s or ’50s.”
The parent said he was shocked to discover that the boy, who has significant emotional and educational needs, would be required to apologise to those affected by his behaviour.
The boy has a special needs assistant.
Pages of the report, seen by the Irish Independent, discuss his emotional and education needs in great detail.
The boy’s name and date of birth were included on the pages.
“(Boy A) will be told about the consequences for his behaviour when he has calmed down and is ready to speak (consequences won’t be given out until Boy A is fully calm as this only makes his behaviour escalate and makes it harder for him to calm himself down),” the report advised.
“The consequences given will depend on the level of the outburst.
“Boy A will also have to apologise to the teacher or whoever was involved or affected by his behaviour.”
The Department of Education warned that schools, both primary and secondary, are responsible for safeguarding the personal data of students and staff alike. The school involved is now understood to be investigating how the material came to be used in the exercise by senior infants.
“Schools as data controllers are responsible to ensure that their processing of personal data complies with data protection legislation,” a department spokesperson said.
In cases where a data breach has occurred, the department stressed that schools, as data controllers, must carefully follow the guidance of the Data Protection Commissioner.