'Apologise to your child,' judge tells mother given suspended sentence for neglecting daughter’s education

A Dublin mother has been given a 21-day suspended sentence after her daughter missed more than 40% of school days over the past two years.

'Apologise to your child,' judge tells mother given suspended sentence for neglecting daughter’s education

By Tom Tuite

A Dublin mother has been given a 21-day suspended sentence after her daughter missed more than 40% of school days over the past two years.

The woman pleaded guilty to breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warning to ensure her child went to school.

Dublin District Court heard her now 14-year-old daughter kept missing school despite her mother being offered a wide range of supports.

These included the offer of a lift to get her child to school.

Judge Alan Mitchell described the child's level of school attendance as "chronic" and told the woman she needed to apologise to her daughter for neglecting her education.

The case was referred to an education and welfare officer in 2017 after the girl, who is in second year, had missed 113 days out of 181, with 90 absent days remaining unexplained.

Going back to when she was in fifth class in primary school she had also missed 78 out of 181 days.

The woman was prosecuted by the Child and Family Agency (CFA).

A school attendance notice was issued by an education and welfare officer in October 2017 and after that, the girl continued to miss about 40% of days, Judge Mitchell heard.

The minimum school leaving age is 16 years, or the completion of three years of post-primary education.

The charge results in a €1,000 fine and a one-month sentence but harsher penalties can be applied for repeat offences.

An education and welfare officer told the court a suite of supports was offered to the girl and her mother: a home school liaison, a school completion programme, text messages and letters were sent out, behaviour support, a learning support programme, extra-curricular activities and a homework club.

The court heard that school transport was among the supports offered “to physically bring her to school on mornings it was necessary”.

A “one-on-one” support worker was offered to help the girl remain in education.

Judge Mitchell heard that the school had confirmed the child did not have special education needs.

Prosecution solicitor Orla Crowe told the court the education and welfare service tried to encourage attendance when support from the parent was limited.

She said it was considered a “parental responsibility issue”.

Defence solicitor Roy O’Neill told the court there had been a number of bereavements in the woman’s family.

He said the woman wished to apologise to the court but Judge Mitchell told her, “she needs to apologise to her child”.

Mr O’Neill said the accused now took it seriously and the child was bright with a good future.

Judge Mitchell noted from a school report that although the girl had managed to pass her exams she was “completely at a loss in relation to content being taught due to absenteeism”.

The woman had no previous convictions.

Judge Mitchell told her not giving children an education was a form of neglect.

He imposed a 21-day jail sentence but suspended it on condition she did not re-offend in the next 12 months and was supervised by the Probation Service.

He said the amount of days missed was very high and there had not been a significant improvement.

He said she risked going to jail if her daughter does not go to school and he asked the CFA to keep the matter under review.

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