A judge has warned the parents of two “school shy” children that she will send them both to prison unless their children have a 100pc attendance record in school from now on.
Kilrush District Court heard a 15-year-old girl has not attended school at all in the current school year while her 11-year-old brother has missed 80 out of 117 school days.
Judge Mary Larkin was told that the girl’s mother informed a Tusla education welfare officer that her daughter was not attending school because “she didn’t like it” and suffers from “anxiety”.
The welfare officer said that the boy was not attending school because of “headaches” and that he was being bullied at school, but she stated there was no evidence to support the bullying claim.
The judge said the anxiety explanation for the girl “has been pulled out of the bag today at the very last minute in the heel of the hunt”.
She told the mother: “She will have anxiety if you go to jail and she will have anxiety if she doesn’t get an education.”
"If she is suffering from anxiety, why didn’t you do something about it?"
The father was not in court and the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. The court was told that he is working outside Co Clare.
The parents were before court on foot of a prosecution initiated by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency concerning their children’s poor school attendance record.
The welfare officer said that the girl lives in the family home located just 500 metres from her school.
Addressing the mother, the judge said: “I can’t understand why any parent would deny their child the privilege of an education. Why would you do that to your child? I cannot understand that.”
The judge said the penalty for not ensuring their child attends school “is jail and I have no difficulty if that child is not in school every day sending one or both of you to jail”.
She told the mother that “to deny your children the right to education is inconceivable”.
“You have an obligation to make sure your child gets to school, to make sure that they learn the basics of life, literacy, reading, writing and arithmetic”.
“I am putting this case back to ensure 100pc attendance and I will have no difficulty sending either of you to jail.”
The welfare officer said that since the summons was issued in relation to the 11-year-old boy, there have been 16 days of school and he was absent for six.
Solicitor for the mother, Patrick Moylan said the boy had Covid-19 for four of those absent days.
The welfare officer said that she had phoned the parents 15 to 16 times without success and arranged six meetings.
The judge adjourned both cases to June 21 at Kilrush District Court.