Tyrrelstown school’s car park policy angers parents of special-needs kids

by Sylvia Pownall
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St Luke's NS,Tyrrelstown

Parents of autistic children who attend St Luke’s NS in Tyrrelstown say they are being treated unfairly by being denied access to the car park.

The school has two classes for young pupils with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) who finish classes at 1.30pm – but the parents claim the car park is locked at 1pm.

One mother, whose five-year-old son attends St Luke’s, said it is putting children at risk because they have to walk out onto a busy road to get into the car.

She told Dublin Gazette: “They close the gates every day at 1pm so nobody can gain access but staff. It’s chaos. For kids on the spectrum it’s a serious hazard because some of them don’t have great mobility.”

In 2013 the school posted on its website noticeboard: “As and from Monday, May 13, only staff, official disability sticker holders and Setanta personnel will have access to the car park at our school complex and school opening and closing times.

“The gates will be closed to all others. If you have a car, we would suggest that you park away from the school and walk to the school.”

Parents of ASD pupils affected by the lunchtime rule have written to the school pointing out that most of them have disabled badges but are denied access nonetheless.

The mum, who asked not to be named, said: “There’s disabled spaces in the car park, but the guy on the gate won’t open them. I’m driving from Lucan so I never make it before 1pm.

“My little boy won’t walk, he has poor muscle tone so I have to carry him. Would it be too much to ask them to open the gates for 20 minutes and let us use the disabled spaces so we could collect our children safely?”

An email sent to the school principal on behalf of the parents pointed out that many of the children “do not have a typical awareness of their surroundings which results in them being a flight risk”.

The email says parents support the school in proactive safety measures but argues that in the case of special needs children steps must be taken to ensure “that their liberties are not denied”.

It is understood that restricted parking space has been an issue at the school for some time.

Dublin Gazette contacted St Luke’s NS by phone about the issue and asked for a comment via email, but none was received.

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