Judge rejects mother’s request for choice of school for son

Tusla tells court boy has made friends at playschool on grounds of school

A judge has rejected a mother’s request for her son attend the primary school of her choice.

The boy is due to start primary school next week and at the Family Law Court, Judge Marie Keane directed that he attend a primary school chosen by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency (CFA).

The boy and a sibling remain in voluntary care with foster parents and Judge Keane stated that in making her decision, she has had regard to the evidence of the child's advocate, the Guardian Ad Litem, who supported Tusla's choice of school in court.

The boy’s father was also consenting to the CFA application concerning school choice.

The mother told the court that she is “disgusted” by the CFA’s late application to the court stating that everything was in place for her boy to attend the school that she had chosen.

She stated that the boy’s older sibling also attends the primary school of her choice.

The mother’s choice of school is the larger of the two schools and the two schools are 10km apart. The boy’s foster family is based in the community served by Tusla’s preferred school.

‘Side of the boy’

In her ruling, Judge Keane stated that the case was not a beauty pageant between the two schools but what is in the best interests of the boy.

“It is not coming down on one school over the other, I am coming down on the side of the boy.”

Judge Keane stated that the boy has attended a playschool on the grounds of the primary school chosen by Tusla and has made friends there.

She stated that the boy has significant developmental delays and challenges “and it is fair for the court to assume that these will manifest themselves further when he goes to school and is in a learning environment other than a play environment”.

Judge Keane stated that particular issues which will arise for the boy would be picked up a lot quicker than they would be in a challenging and bigger environment.

She stated that the mother made credible arguments to the court concerning the lateness of the application by the CFA.

Judge Keane stated that she also understood the mother’s apprehension that if the child goes to Tusla’s choice of school that this may influence the court in relation to the care order proceedings for the boy that will be heard at a future date.

The boy’s guardian said a person would struggle to understand his speech and “this will impact on him making new friendships”.

She stated that the boy is more likely because of developmental delays to find adaptation challenges in a new school .

The guardian said it was the expert view that the boy’s recent progress in speech and language means that he wouldn’t require the facilities provided by the larger school.

The Tusla social worker told the court that there would be less upheaval for the boy if he attended the school of their choice and that the two siblings wouldn’t see each other at the mother’s choice of school as they would be in different parts of the campus.

Judge Keane directed that the CFA meet any transport costs in the child’s parents attending his first day at school or any parent teacher meetings or any school engagements.

Judge Keane also directed that a cognitive assessment of the boy be put in place on an urgent basis and adjourned the case to December for review.