No jail for father over son’s poor attendance

A father, who did not believe there was “any harm” in his teenage son skipping school for a year, has been spared a jail sentence.

Dublin District Court heard that as a last resort Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, had to bring proceedings against the man and his wife over serious concerns about the number of school days missed by their son, who is in his mid-teens.

Judge John O’Neill fined the father €300 and issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the mother, who did not attend the court case for an eighth time.

He noted that the youth’s father was pleading guilty to breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warning about school attendance.

Education and welfare officer Ruth Dillon told Judge O’Neill that the boy had been referred to Tusla in March 2015, by which stage the boy had missed 72 days of school that year.

He already had a history of non-attendance going back to when he was in primary school. A school attendance notice was issued to the parents in November 2015 which was the last step before initiating a prosecution and coming to court.

Ms Dillon agreed with Alan Doyle, prosecuting, that the couple would not engage and there was no other option but to have a summons issued in February.

He did not return to school last year at all. He came back last September but has only turned up for just under 50% of days this school year.

During the summer the family applied for homeschooling for the youth but that was not deemed suitable. The court heard that the welfare agency was of the view that the parents had not done all in their power to ensure attendance.

The teenager was in court with his father but neither of them addressed the court.

Matthew Holmes, defending, told the court that the defendant and his other children left education at the same age as the boy who was the subject of the proceedings.

Mr Holmes said the man believed “it has not done them any harm”. The boy’s older siblings have gone on to get various jobs or courses, the court was told. The teenager had some issues in school and had been getting “slagging” but his attendance had improved significantly, said Mr Holmes.

He did not fully understand his father risked being sent to jail as a consequence, said Mr Holmes.

Counsel said the father has a clean record and had done his best to ensure the teenager went to school. He prepared his lunch and packed his bag but the boy did not turn up.

Pleading for leniency, counsel said the family was of limited means.

Mr Doyle, prosecuting, said the explanations were not good enough and the child was not getting an education.

Judge O’Neill agreed that a school attendance prosecution against a parent is only taken as a last resort.

He did not accept the father’s explanation and said children need routine and discipline in their lives. He said the boy is the loser and warned that a lot of youths who stop going to school end up come coming before the Children’s Court and later the Criminal Courts of Justice. He spared the father a sentence and allowed him six months to pay the fine.


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