School discriminated against father after enrolling daughter against his wishes

Workplace Relations Commission orders Co Clare school to pay €3,500 compensation in discrimination case

The WRC also ordered the board of management  to review its admissions policy with a view to making any necessary amendments to ensure the principles of equality are applied to both male and female legal guardians in the assessment of applications for enrolment.

The WRC also ordered the board of management to review its admissions policy with a view to making any necessary amendments to ensure the principles of equality are applied to both male and female legal guardians in the assessment of applications for enrolment.

 

A parents’ row over the enrolment of their daughter in a Co Clare school has resulted in the school being ordered to pay the father €3,500 compensation in a discrimination case.

This follows the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) upholding the girl’s father’s claim that he was treated less favourably by the secondary school’s Board of Management than the mother of their daughter because of his gender.

The father took the gender discrimination case under the Equal Status Act against the school board of management after the school enrolled the girl for the 2017/18 school year without his consent.

The parents are estranged and share joint legal guardianship of their daughter.

Along with ordering the school’s board of management to pay the father €3,500 for the effects of the discrimination, WRC adjudication officer, Enda Murphy ordered the board to review its admissions policy with a view to making any necessary amendments to ensure that the principles of equality are applied to both male and female legal guardians in the assessment of applications for enrolment.

The father became aware in April 2017 that his former partner applied to have their daughter enrolled in the school in January 2017. He contacted the school on April 10th 2017 and informed it he did not consent to the enrolment and provided the school with a copy of a court order confirming he was a legal guardian of the girl.

The father wrote to the school principal on August 14th 2017 and to the chair of the board of management on August 30th 2017 concerning his objections to the enrolment.

According to the school, the father in his letter of August 30th 2017 confirmed that if the school did not desist from this “unlawful act immediately” he would instigate proceedings against the chairperson of the school and the patron.

The girl was now attending the school and the school principal wrote to the father on August 30th 2017 advising him that both himself and the girl’s mother should sort this matter out between themselves in the interest of their daughter.

Exact same rights

The father told the WRC that the school enrolled his daughter according to the wishes of his mother and did not take his position as a male or father into consideration.

The father claimed that the school deliberately discriminated against him as a father, parent and legal guardian and failed to remedy the situation when the matter was brought to its attention.

He told the WRC that the board of management had a choice in relation to the enrolment of his daughter and ultimately chose in favour of her mother.

He argued that as a father and legal guardian, he has the exact same rights to choose his daughter’s education and welfare as that of her mother.

In his findings, Mr Murphy found that the father as joint guardian was fully entitled to object to the enrolment of his daughter in the school. It was incumbent on the school board of management to bring the father’s objection to the attention of the mother of their daughter and to defer any decision on the enrolment application until the issue had been decided upon by the courts.

Mr Murphy stated that the school was fully aware prior to the completion of the enrolment process that there was a dispute between her parents concerning the enrolment.

He stated that a school board of management has no jurisdiction to decide matters pertaining to guardianship and in circumstances where such legal guardians cannot agree to matters pertaining to their child’s welfare, including decisions relating to education, then such matters must be decided upon by a court.

In proceeding with the entrolment he found the school “subjected the complainant to discrimination on the grounds of gender in relation to his daughter’s enrolment in the school.”

The school board of management told the WRC that in a letter dated September 11th 2017, the chairperson of the board wrote to the father to confirm his daughter was enrolled in the school in good faith and in the absence of any knowledge of any dispute regarding her enrolment.

The chairperson stated that it could not intervene in any family law dispute between legal guardians regarding attendance or enrolment.It also told the father that the school had no wish or interest in taking sides in any dispute between parents and that the school’s policy was to treat all parents equally.