Thursday 18 July 2019

'She needs to apologise to her child' - mum avoids jail after her daughter misses 191 days of school

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Tom Tuite

A DUBLIN mother has been given a 21-day suspended sentence after her daughter missed more than 40pc of school days over two years.

The woman pleaded guilty to breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warning to ensure her child went to school.

Dublin District Court heard that her now 14-year-old daughter kept missing school despite her mother being offered a wide range of support, including a lift to take her to classes.

Judge Alan Mitchell described the girl’s attendance rate as “chronic” and told the woman she needed to apologise to her daughter for neglecting her education.

The case was referred to an education and welfare officer in 2017 after the girl, who is in second year, had missed 113 days out of 181, with 90 absent days remaining unexplained.

When she was in fifth class in primary school, she also missed 78 out of 181 days.

The woman was prosecuted by the Child and Family Agency.

A school attendance notice was issued in October 2017 and after that the girl continued to miss about 40pc of days, Judge Mitchell heard.

The charge can result in a €1,000 fine and a one-month sentence but harsher penalties can be applied for repeat offences.

An education and welfare officer told the court a range of support was offered to the girl and her mother including a home school liaison, school completion programme, behaviour support, a learning support programme, extra curricular activities and a homework club.

Text messages and letters were also sent out, the officer said.

The court heard that school transport was offered “to physically bring her to school on mornings it was necessary”.

A one-to-one support worker was also offered to help the girl remain in education.

Judge Mitchell heard that the school had confirmed the child did not have special education needs.

Prosecution solicitor Orla Crowe told the court the education and welfare service tried to encourage attendance when support from the parent was limited.

She said it was considered a “parental responsibility issue”. Defence solicitor Roy O’Neill told the court there had been a number of bereavements in the woman’s family.

He said his client wished to apologise to the court but Judge Mitchell said: “She needs to apologise to her child.”

Mr O’Neill said the accused now took it seriously and the girl was bright with a good future ahead of her.

Judge Mitchell noted from a school report that, although the girl had managed to pass her exams, she was “completely at a loss in relation to content being taught due to absenteeism”.

The judge told the woman, who had no previous convictions, that not giving children an education was a form of neglect.

He imposed a 21-day jail sentence but suspended it on condition she did not reoffend in the next 12 months. She was also told she would be supervised by the Probation Service.

The judge said the woman risked going to jail if her daughter did not attend school.

Herald

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