Sunday 8 December 2019

Teen mum ‘ashamed’ after school principal turned her away

Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan has called for a full apology to the teenage girl refused admission to St Joseph's College in Borrisoleigh, Co, because she was a single mother
Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan has called for a full apology to the teenage girl refused admission to St Joseph's College in Borrisoleigh, Co, because she was a single mother Tipperary
The school's former principal Padraig O'Shea
St Joseph's College in Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary

Kim Bielenberg and Barry Duggan

THE 16-year-old girl turned away from a secondary school because she was pregnant was left "ashamed and embarrassed" after being told it did not accept single mothers.

In a complaint to the Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan, the teenager also said she felt "hurt and discriminated against" after being refused admission to St Joseph's College in Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary.

Last night the school declined to comment on the controversy -- despite calls from Ms Logan for a full apology to the young woman.

The Department of Education revealed that it held an unannounced inspection at the school in February after correspondence about the case from Ms Logan.

A second inspection is due shortly, and the inspector's report is expected by the end of the school year.

In a full report on the case, published by the Ombudsman, the teenage mother at the centre of the storm has told of her deep anguish at her rejection by St Joseph's school manager and former principal Padraig O'Shea.

The girl applied to the school in 2009 after attending two other secondary schools.

The report said she was given a form, copies of subject choices, and was advised to get a uniform and books. She thought she had been accepted.

However, when Mr O'Shea discovered she was pregnant her mother was told that she would not be accepted, because the school "did not take such girls".


The teenager, who is now believed to be 19, said: "(I) felt put into a low category that I was not good enough to be in his school.

"I felt ashamed and embarrassed that someone could make me feel this way for being a single young mother.

"I wouldn't wish that feeling on anyone. I was very emotional and stressed by it. I felt hurt and discriminated against."

The girl, who was refused entry both before and after her baby was born in 2010, said she had wanted to complete her education for the sake of herself and her baby.

Mr O'Shea, founder and manager of the privately owned non- fee-paying school, did not respond to queries about the case yesterday.

However, in an earlier response to the Children's Ombudsman, he said:

"This school is NOT a haven for young pregnant people or for young mothers who, in particular, have been in two other post-primary schools."

He added: "The school has an uncompromising ethos."

After her baby was born, the teenage girl again thought she had been admitted to the school when she applied to the school for a second time.

But she said she received a personal phone call from Mr O'Shea, in which he said: "I will not and do not accept single mothers in this school."

Mr O'Shea made the decision despite pleas from other teachers and friends of the girl to allow her attend the school.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn yesterday declined to comment on the specific case.

However, he said he would shortly produce clear guidelines on school enrolment policies.

St Joseph's attracted some criticism in a school inspector's report in 2007 that suggested the school should review its admission policies.

But the inspector also noted the commitment of staff to high quality education in the report

It was also criticised over fire safety and the report suggested that Mr O'Shea, who has since stepped down as principal, should appoint an advisory group representing staff and parents.

Irish Independent

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