Woman jailed because boy missed school

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A WOMAN whose eight-year-old son missed more than 240 school days over the last two years has been sent to prison.

The woman, from west Dublin, cannot be named for legal reasons. She is a single parent in her 30s. She was convicted at Dublin District Court of neglecting the boy’s education following a prosecution by Tusla, the child and family agency.

Judge Anthony Halpin said he did not accept the woman had been doing her best to get her child to school. He said the situation had got worse since her trial in October when sentencing was adjourned.

A parent can be fined up to €1,000 and jailed for a month if convicted of breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warnings about a child’s school attendance.

Under the Act the minimum school-leaving age was raised to 16 years or the completion of three years of post-primary education.

The mother had been cleared of the same charge in relation to the child’s older sibling who was suspected of suffering from depression and anxiety.

Education and Welfare officer Georgina Traynor agreed with prosecution solicitor Shane Reynolds that the boy had been absent from the school roll on 139 out of 175 days during the 2017-2018 year. That was a 79% absent rate.

So far in the 2018-2019 year there were 134 school days and the boy had missed 90 of them, an absent rate of 67%, Judge Halpin was told. The education officer told the court, this “was going to have an obvious effect on teaching and learning” for the boy.

She agreed there were concerns the woman failed to put in place a routine to ensure her son attended school. This had a knock-on effect on a speech and language service provided to the boy who attended five out of nine of those sessions since November, the court was told.

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