A JUDGE has warned his entire district that he will “keep a tight rein” on parents who fail to send their children to school.
“Let the message go out, I’ll keep a tight rein on you,” Judge Seamus Hughes’ told those in attendance at Mullingar District Court.
“There are a lot of children who have no respect — through their parents — for education,” said Judge Hughes, as he described his approach to truancy as “proactive”.
“They’re entitled to their education, it’s the only thing in this country that’s free,” he said, adding that children “by their attendance will pick up something in school”.
He made the comments as three separate sets of parents being prosecuted by the National Educational Welfare Board for failing to send their children to school appeared before him.
In the most recent case before him, he told the mother of girls aged 11 and 13 that her children are entitled to their education.
Referring to the 2011/12 academic year, Judge Hughes warned: “I’ll come down on you like a load of bricks next year.”
The younger girl had missed 72 days out of 99 and the older girl 68 days out of 99 before their parents were summonsed to appear before the court.
Since the summons, they’ve only missed one out of 13 days.
The mother explained that her younger daughter was simply lazy, but that the older girl had been bullied.
The school principal, who the mother described as “very good”, is now working with the family to address the problem.
She also added that since they were attacked in their car last year, the older girl has been unwilling to go anywhere by car.
“It’s a job to see her go to school crying,” she said, saying her daughter comes home from school every day with a headache and goes to bed.
In two cases before the court for a number of months, Judge Hughes heard that the children’s attendance is progressing well, and congratulated the mothers on their good work and told them to keep it up.
However, he expressed concern that one father in the older cases was continually out of the jurisdiction when his case was before the court.
Another had the flu yesterday, and was minding children with chickenpox on previous occasions.
The father of the two girls in the most recent case had been in hospital two days earlier but was at home, his wife said.
“If you can’t get your daughter out of bed, then he might be able to — if he’s out of bed himself,” said Judge Hughes .
All cases were adjourned until September.
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