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Clare parents threatened with jail over truant children

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A judge has warned the parents of two ‘school shy’ children that she will send both to jail unless their children have a 100 per cent attendance record in school from now on.

In one case, a 15-year-old girl has not attended school at all in the current school year while her 11-year-old brother has missed 80 out of 117 school days.

At Kilrush District Court, Judge Mary Larkin was told that the girl’s mother informed a TUSLA Education Welfare Officer that her daughter wasn’t attending school because ‘she didn’t like it’ and suffers from ‘anxiety’.

The TUSLA Education Welfare Officer said that the 11-year-old boy wasn’t attending school because of ‘headaches’ and that he was being bullied at school but she stated that there was no evidence to support the bullying claim.

Judge Larkin said that the anxiety explanation for the 15-year-old girl “has been pulled out of the bag today at the very last minute in the heel of the hunt”.

Judge Larkin told the mother, “She will have anxiety if you go to jail and she will have anxiety if she doesn’t get an education.”

Judge Larkin added: “If she is suffering from anxiety, why didn’t you do something about it?”

The father wasn’t in court and Judge Larkin issued a bench warrant for his arrest. The court was told that he is working outside Clare.

The parents were before court on foot of a prosecution initiated by TUSLA – the Child and Family Agency – concerning their children’s poor school attendance record.

The TUSLA worker said that the 15-year-old girl lives in the family home located 500 metres from her school.

Addressing the mother, Judge Larkin said, “I can’t understand why any parent would deny their child the privilege of an education. Why would you do that to your child? I cannot understand that.”

Judge Larkin said that the penalty for not ensuring that their child attends school is jail – “I have no difficulty if that child is not in school every day sending one or both of you to jail.”

Judge Larkin told the mother that “to deny your children the right to education is inconceivable”.

The judge told the woman that “you have an obligation to make sure your child gets to school, to make sure that they learn the basics of life, literacy, reading, writing and arithmetic”.

Judge Larkin said, “I am putting this case back to ensure 100 per cent attendance and I will have no difficulty sending either of you to jail.”

The TUSLA Welfare Education Officer said that since the summons was issued in relation to the 11-year-old, there have been 16 days school and he was absent for six.

Solicitor for the mother, Patrick Moylan said that the boy had Covid for four of those absent days.

The TUSLA worker said that she had phoned the parents 15 to 16 times without success and arranged six meetings.

Judge Larkin adjourned both cases to June 21 to Kilrush District Court.

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