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A school principal has been ordered to stand trial in St. John's, N.L., this spring on charges of assault against four students, all with special needs.

Robert Robin McGrath is currently on leave from his position at Admiral's Academy in Conception Bay South, where the assaults are alleged to have taken place between September 2017 and June 2018, according to court documents filed by his lawyer.

Provincial court last week scheduled a five-day trial to begin May 25 for McGrath, 50, who was charged last March with four counts of assault and one count of uttering threats.

The students, whose identities are protected under a publication ban, range in age from kindergarten through Grade 6 and all have behavioural or learning disabilities.

An application filed by McGrath's lawyer last September says he expects the Crown to introduce evidence that McGrath "used excessive force in controlling the behaviour" of the students.

Last month, a judge granted McGrath's lawyer, Ian Patey, access to McGrath's emails and the students' files with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.

The request covered education and behaviour plans, meeting notes and files in a system used to document "student incidents and interventions."

Patey had argued the documents would be used to build a defence and referenced a section of the Criminal Code that addresses "reasonable" force in correcting a child or pupil under an individual's care.

The application argued the documents would provide context "in which the alleged actions ... are to be assessed and whether any physical interactions between the victims and the applicant were unreasonable in all of the circumstances."

According to his lawyer's application, McGrath has worked as an educator for more than two decades, working as a teacher for six years and as a school administrator for 19 years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2020.