Inquiry as school bars pregnant teen

Mon, Apr 30, 2012, 01:00

The school that excluded a 16-year-old pregnant teenager is being investigated by the Department of Education and Skills following a complaint from Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan.

Ms Logan has requested the Munster school apologise for excluding the girl because she was pregnant.

Ms Logan said she has been lobbying for years for a clear admissions policy for parents and children.

“The best way that I think I could handle this is to make it known to the members of the Oireachtas and to the Minister who has responsibility for legislating in this area," she said. “It is important that the public is aware that there are still children who are being mistreated and this is not acceptable.”

Ms Logan said she never experienced such hostility as when investigating the decision by the school to exclude the teenager.

“It is very, very unusual. Generally people are respectful of the level of independence of my office,” she said. “By and large people co-operate in relation to the fact that we have a role to do."

In a report published on the Children’s Ombudsman website, Ms Logan said the girl in question tried unsuccessfully twice to enrol in the school, once when she was pregnant and secondly after she had the baby in 2010.

According to the report, when her mother wrote to the school principal, he replied: “Your letter surprises me. A neighbour called at your request and stated that your daughter was pregnant. I was shocked and I told her that I did not take in such girls. She conveyed the message to you.”

Ms Logan wrote to the school in July last year following a complaint from the girl’s mother.

She requested the school furnish a copy of its admissions policies and complaints procedures along with outlining its board of management structure.

In response the school manager wrote to her: “Neither am I obliged to have any other frills that you mention. This school is NOT [manager's emphasis] a haven for young pregnant people or for young mothers who, in particular, have been in two other post primary schools. The school has an uncompromising ethos and will not become a dumping ground for those rejected elsewhere.”

Ms Logan said she could not see any evidence of an admissions policy publicly available to families and potential students nor did the school appear to have a complaints mechanism.

She concluded the school had treated the teenager unfavourably and had discriminated against her based on family status.

A statement from the Department of Education said they do not want to prejudice the outcome of the inspector's report and so will not be commenting on the specific case.

However, the department pointed out Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn unveiled a discussion paper on school enrolment last year to make the process of enrolling schools more “open, equitable and consistent”.

The statement continued: “Education partners and interested parties were invited to submit their views and the Department is currently co-ordinating their submissions. The feedback from this consultation will help inform the nature and scope of a new regulatory framework for school enrolment.

The Minister plans to bring proposals to Government this year." Attempts to contact the school by phone and email this afternoon were unsuccessful.