Father facing jail after son missed more than 300 days of school in just over two years
A DUBLIN father is facing a jail sentence for neglecting his son’s education after the teenager missed more than 300 days of school in just over two years.
The man did not turn up for his hearing at Dublin District Court but was convicted in his absence. A warrant was issued and a date for sentence in September was set by Judge John Brennan who described the case as “appalling”.
A parent could be fined up to €1,000 and jailed for a month if convicted of breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warnings about a child’s school attendance.
Under the Act the minimum school leaving age was raised to 16 years or the completion of three years of post-primary education.
The man, who had a history of failing to attend two previous hearings, was tried in his absence in a prosecution brought by Tusla, Child and Family Agency.
The boy’s parents did not live together but had a shared custody arrangement, the court was told. The mother was fined €400 last year.
A breakdown of the teen’s attendance was given by an education and welfare officer. In the 2015-2016 school year the boy was absent for 118 days out of a scheduled 167, the following year he missed 142 days out of 164 and in third year between September and the end of term in December 2017 the boy did not turn up on 65 days out of 73 days.
He was not there on 325 days over the entire period and missed chunks of his curriculum.
His secondary school principal told Judge Brennan the teenager entered first year in September 2015.
Attendance became an issue after one month and “became a real issue in November so much so his year head invited the parents to attend a meeting but no parents attended”.
A few months later, the court heard, the boy arrived at school and told staff he had taken a number of tablets. They were unable to get through to the parents when they tried to phone them.
Staff brought the boy, who is now in his mid-teens, to hospital and remained with him for three to four hours until the mother arrived.
The court heard that the father could not be contacted when attempts were made to ring him on the phone number he had provided.
In cross-examination, the school head told the court the man had claimed he dropped his son off but he would not stay. The court also heard that the teenager had been staying at his father’s on days he was supposed to be going to school.
The court also heard he failed to attend meetings offered by an education and welfare officer and the school found him uncontactable.
A range of support was offered: a lunch time club, extra curricular activities, psychotherapy, a reduced time-table, one-to-one tuition and a home-school liaison co-ordinator. It had been hoped this would help re-engage the boy in education but they were not availed of, the court heard.
The school realised it was not working out and the boy was moved to an alternative to mainstream educational course in third year. The father was invited to engage in that process too but did not get involved, the court heard.
The teen should have been sitting the Junior Cert exams this year but that was not possible because he has missed so much of his curriculum, the principal said adding that the boy’s social skills had also been negatively affected.
The father was found guilty and Judge John Brennan heard the man, who is in his forties, had previous convictions for breaching a barring order, criminal damage as well as drugs and motoring offences.
Judge Brennan said it was an appalling situation and a “plethora” of support services been offered. A custodial sentence was being considered, he told the man's barrister.