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Pupil unable to finish school over outstanding fee

THE parents of a private school student who was prevented from going into sixth year over non-payment of a school fee of less than €3,000 were ordered by a court yesterday to pay over the money.

Daragh Lee (18), who was not in court and who is currently studying in Finland, was due to return to the fee-paying Sandford Park School in Ranelagh, Dublin, at the end of August 2010.

But a court was told yesterday it had been made "crystal clear" to Daragh's parents that he could not return unless the outstanding fee was paid.

Sandford Park instituted proceedings against Ken and Emer Lee -- who have divorced -- for the payment of the fee and yesterday Dublin District Civil Court made an order in favour of the school.

The school refused to comment following the ruling but Mr Lee said he never had any intention other than to pay the fee. "I expected the outcome but this was not about money, it was about me having the opportunity to make public how my son was treated," he said.

Reading from a prepared statement, Mr Lee, who has an address at The Village, Stepaside, Dublin, told the court that the manner in which the school prevented Daragh from sitting his final year was "deliberate, reckless (and) ruthless".

"Daragh was penalised, bullied and used as an example to his colleagues and their parents as to what will happen at Sandford Park School Ltd when school fees are not paid on time."

He claimed the school refused to accept a guarantee that the outstanding fee would be paid when the family home was sold.

School bursar David Townsend said that at a meeting in May 2010 both parents were told that Daragh could not return to school if the fees were not paid.

"My position was absolutely crystal clear that he could not return if the fees were not paid," he told solicitor Peter Boyle, for the school.

School board of governors chairman, Brian McConnell, said it was particularly important for a school like Sandford Park that parents did not go into a subsequent year owing money and incurring further debt.

Asked had the school been given an irrevocable undertaking from Mr Lee's solicitors that the fees would be paid from the proceeds of the sale of the family home, Mr McConnell said they would have given it consideration but no such undertaking was forthcoming.

Given the circumstances of the case, Judge Mary Collins said she would make no order on costs.

Irish Independent