Kicked out | 

Meet disgraced Irish teacher deported from US after improper relationship with student

Dillon Gaffney was released early from an eight-year prison term in Texas and is back in Ireland working on a building site

Dillon Gaffney pictured this week

Patrick O'Connell

Meet the disgraced Irish teacher who has been booted out of the US after he engaged in an improper relationship with a student.

Dillon Gaffney received an eight-year prison sentence in Texas in 2018 after he was convicted on three counts of engaging in an improper relationship with a student and three counts of the sexual assault of a child under the age of 17.

Gaffney (29) is back in Ireland and working on a building site after securing his release from jail and being deported from the US.

The Sunday World confronted the former educator and football coach back in his native Kildare this week when our reporter asked him whether there was anything he could say in his own defence.

"Yeah," he responded, "but I don't really want to bring it up.

"I just want to relax. I had a hell of a time. There is a lot of things I want to say … but not at the moment. I'm just trying to adapt back to life here. It's been tough."

With a cross of ashes daubed on his forehead to mark Ash Wednesday and carrying a pair of construction boots across his shoulder, Gaffney's current occupation is a lifetime's remove from the privileged position he enjoyed when working as a coach and social studies teacher at Palacios High School in Texas between 2015 and 2016.

This is when the offences occurred, according to local media reports at the time.

Gaffney speaks to our man Patrick O’Connell

He had got a new job in a different school when he was arrested after which two other people came forward, according to reports.

Gaffney had just completed his first year as head coach of the girls' soccer team at Huntsville High School when he was arrested.

He had originally travelled to the US on a soccer scholarship, later transferring to a university in Texas where he was on the team roster.

He was arrested in August 2017 and detained in Matagorda County Jail under a US$375,000 (€318,000) bond.

A spokesperson for Matagorda County Jail at the time said Gaffney had pleaded guilty to all six charges on May 3, 2018.

Gaffney had originally gone to the US on a soccer scholarship

Gaffney received an eight-year prison sentence at Matagorda County District Court for each of the six convictions, which were to run concurrently.

He was also fined $10,000 (€8,500) for one of the three Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student convictions and registered as a sex offender.

Gaffney faced an initial release date of August 2025 but was eligible for parole by August 2021 and is now back home in Co Kildare.

While a prisoner in the Texas Department of Corrections he posted on Write A Prisoner website looking for potential pen pals to send him letters while serving his sentence.

Dillon Gaffney's mugshot

In his short biography on the site, he explains how he moved from Ireland to Texas and that he's looking forward to the "new adventure" when he gets out.

"What's up! My name is Dillon. I'm from Dublin, Ireland. I moved to the U.S. in 2010 for college soccer. I went to school outside Richmond, VA but transferred to the University of Texas at Brownsville a year later. That's how I ended up in Texas.

"My hobbies are sports (soccer, football, boxing, and a few Irish sports - hurling and gaelic football). I love history; I was a social studies teacher in the free world. I like psychology too. I studied communications at University and graduated in 2015."

"To describe myself in a few words, I would say energetic, compassionate, happy, and funny. I love to laugh and live life."

"So being locked up can be very hard, especially being so far from home. But life isn't all bad... it can always get worse."

"I had an active lifestyle in the world so I will continue that when I get out. I will get deported when I get out so I will have a new adventure."

"Well, I would love to hear from you," he wrote.

Gaffney got out of prison early and was deported

The Palacios Independent School District which had employed Gaffney released a statement shortly after his arrest, in which they expressed disappointment over his arrest.

Dr Alexandro Flores, Superintendent of Schools Palacios ISD, said: "We are deeply disappointed to notify of the recent arrest of former Palacios High School Teach/Coach, Dillon Gaffney for having an inappropriate relationship with at least one former student during his time working with our district.

"Mr Gaffney worked for our district during the 2015-2016 school year as a social studies teacher/assistant soccer coach.

"At no point during his tenure here were we made aware of any inappropriate interactions between Mr Gaffney and any of our students.

"Regardless of our district's best efforts to thoroughly vet and screen all incoming employees, we cannot ultimately predict the future behaviours or actions to be displayed by our staff."

Dillon Gaffney

Dr Flores continued to say that the school district strives to protect the wellbeing of students.

"What we can tell you with certainty is that we will always follow up and investigate any claims, allegations, or reports regarding inappropriate contact of any kind between staff and students and will not hesitate to take immediate and effective action when necessary and warranted.

"Unfortunately, we live in a time where these kinds of incidents can occur anywhere, even in smaller rural districts such as our own. No one is truly immune."

"The safety and security of our students will always remain the top priority of our organisation and we will continue to work tirelessly to improve upon any best practices which support and increase the safety of our children."

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