Judge orders arrest of parents whose son (10) missed over 60% of schooldays

Parents fined in separate truancy cases


A judge ordered gardaí to arrest the parents of a 10-year-old boy after they failed to turn up in court yesterday to explain why their son missed over 60 per cent of school days.

The case involving the third-class student from Co Limerick was one of three prosecutions taken by the National Educational Welfare Board at Newcastle West District Court yesterday.

The prosecutions for breaching school attendance notices were brought under Section 25 of the Education Welfare Act, 2000.

Educational welfare officer Stuart Moloney told the court the boy, who was in school on Monday, was aware of yesterday’s proceedings but his parents, who are members of the Traveller community, had not turned up in court.

Mr Moloney said that while there had been an improvement in the child’s attendance since the court summons was issued in February, the boy missed 23 out of 36 school days (64 per cent) between December 12th, 2012, and February 19th last.

After hearing they were not in court, Judge Mary Emer Larkin issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the child’s parents.

In another case, she fined the parents of a 15-year-old boy €1,200 after hearing he had a “chronic level of school absenteeism”. Judge Larkin said she was aware that the fine was high but said the alternative was three weeks in jail.

She convicted the boy’s parents after hearing they had breached a school attendance notice issued on February 1st, 2012.

Solicitor Kevin Sherry said that despite “significant intervention” by the National Educational Welfare Board and various support services, there were no improvements in the teenager’s attendance levels.

Mr Sherry said the second-year student had chronic levels of absenteeism since October 2010.

He said the summons issued on October 11th, 2012, had not achieved the desired effect and told the court the teenager had missed 28 days of school since the matter was last before the court in December.

Solicitor John Lynch said his clients who were present in court were doing their best to try to co-operate and told the court their son was a “difficult young lad to deal with”.

Judge Larkin convicted both parents and fined them €600 each.

In another case involving a 12-year-old girl who didn’t attend school for the first half of the current school year, Judge Larkin threatened to jail her parents.

She said there had been a deliberate and concerted effort by the parents to ignore their legal obligation to have their child educated.

After hearing they were members of the Traveller community who travelled around Europe a lot, Judge Larkin said the parents were required under law to have their child educated either while travelling abroad or via an approved home schooling programme.

Judge Larkin also ordered that the parents provide evidence that they had sought eduction for their child while recently travelling in Scotland.

Solicitor Michael O’Donnell said his clients had since returned to the jurisdiction and their daughter had returned to school after Easter.

Judge Larkin said her concern was to ensure the child attended school and ordered that the 12-year-old attend every schoolday up until May 23rd next.

She warned that her parents would face fines, imprisonment or the possibility of a supervision order through the HSE for any unexplained schools days missed.