Wednesday 21 August 2019

School says pupil can opt out of RE classes

Castletroy College in Limerick, where a pupil will now be allowed to opt out of learning religion
Castletroy College in Limerick, where a pupil will now be allowed to opt out of learning religion

Katherine Donnelly, David Raleigh and Kathryn Hayes

A second-level school at the centre of a row over religious education has decided to let a pupil opt out of the class.

The board of management at Castletroy College, Limerick, conceded to the request of parent Paul Drury to withdraw his daughter from classes in the subject.

Religious education is an optional junior cycle subject, but at Castletroy College it is part of the core curriculum, which means it expects all pupils to take it.

Castletroy College, a popular school with more than 1,000 pupils, is run by the local Education and Training Board (ETB) with the Bishop of Limerick, Brendan Leahy, as a joint patron.

The school previously confirmed that parent, Paul Drury, who is from the UK, was previously told his daughter, a first year student, could not opt out of religion.

However, the law states that schools cannot require a student to participate in a subject that goes against their or their parents' beliefs.

The Constitution also gives parents the right to withdraw their children from religious instruction.

Following a meeting of the board of management last night, the school issued a statement saying Mr Drury's request was being allowed.

"Mr Drury requested that his daughter be allowed to opt out of the Religious Education course. Following discussion at a regular board of management meeting this evening this request was agreed with immediate effect," read the statement.

"Mr Drury has been informed of this decision," it concluded.

The school explained afterwards that the student will have to remain in the classroom while the subject is being taught, but will not have to participate in the religious education class.

Mr Drury welcomed the decision but did not wish to comment further.

School principal Padraig Flanagan said other parents who made similar approaches to the school had ultimately opted to leave their child in the religious education class when it was explained to them that the subject was for all faiths and none.

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan, a TD in the area, yesterday confirmed the rights of parents to take their children out of religious education and said she had a brief discussion about the case with the ETB.

"I do believe that it is the right of a parent - they are the primary educators of their children - so it is their right to decide whether or not the child attends religious education."

"I understand that the course in question (at Castletroy College) is about religion in general, but even at that, parents do have rights in this regard."

She added: "If there is any more clarity needed then [the department of education] would be happy to give it."

"I hope parents do know their rights, and they should approach [a school] if they wish to have their child exempt from religion. Normally that is done first through the principal, and if necessary through the board of management."

Irish Independent

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