Nfld. & Labrador

Suspended principal accused of using 'excessive force' on 4 students with disabilities

New details in a court application shed some light on the four assault charges against Robin McGrath.

Robin McGrath's legal team files application to access student files, work emails

Robin McGrath has been suspended from his position as principal of Admiral's Academy in Conception Bay South since June 2018. (NLESD)

The principal of Admiral's Academy in Conception Bay South is accused of using "excessive force in correcting the behaviour" of four students between kindergarten and Grade 6, according to new documents filed by his lawyers.

All four students were described as having "learning and/or behavioural exceptionalities," and had various types of student support workers.

The details are revealed in an application to order the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District to turn over the student files, as well as principal Robin McGrath's own work emails.

He hasn't had access to his account since being suspended from his position at the Conception Bay South school in June 2018.

He filed an access to information request to obtain his own emails last May, but it was rejected.

McGrath's lawyers are also seeking to get access to records from a program called Review360, a web-based program used to track student incidents and staff interventions.

"These documents provide the history of particular interventions, the individuals involved and communications made at the school and district level which provide the context in which the alleged actions of the applicant are to be assessed," the application reads.

'Correction of child by force'

The application also gives a glimpse into the defence's legal strategy should this case go to trial.

It states that McGrath is anticipating Section 43 of the Criminal Code to be an issue. That section is titled "Correction of child by force."

It states:

  • "Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances."

In order to properly assess McGrath's case and how it falls under this law, his lawyers argued, they need access to everything that could relate to the alleged assaults — including his emails, Review360 records, written notes by staff members, and more.

His lawyer, Ian Patey, made a brief appearance at provincial court in St. John's on Tuesday morning, where a date was set to hear the application.

School district lawyer Bernadette Cole-Gendron also appeared, and said it would be no problem to hand over the emails. She said the other records, however, will require a hearing.

The matter will return to court Dec. 20 at 10 a.m.

Union had urged teachers to speak up

The Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association has spoken out in McGrath's defence.

Earlier this year, NLTA president Dean Ingram wouldn't comment on details of the case, but did make comments about a lack of resources playing a factor.

"Teachers who interact with students have to have the resources to allow them to effectively and appropriately interact with students," Ingram told CBC News at the time.

McGrath was suspended without pay pending the result of his criminal charges. Ingram also took issue with that, saying he was being punished without due process.

"That's really at the heart of where our concerns are with this matter," he said at the time.

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Ryan Cooke is a multiplatform journalist with CBC News in St. John's. His work often takes a deeper look at social issues and the human impact of public policy. Originally from rural Newfoundland, he attended the University of Prince Edward Island and worked for newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada before joining CBC in 2016. He can be reached at