Judge threatens to jail County Tipperary couple whose son missed 50 days at school

A judge has threatened to jail a couple whose teenage son missed 50 days of school last year.

A judge has threatened to jail a couple whose teenage son missed 50 days of school last year.

The couple, who cannot be named to protect the identity of their son who attends a secondary school in south Tipperary, were prosecuted by the National Educational Welfare Board and appeared in Cashel district court last week.

The father of the 16-year-old boy said the couple didn’t attend a previous sitting of the court because they felt it was “an insult” to be summonsed.

Judge Terence Finn said he was looking at going down the road of sending the man to Limerick prison, along with his wife, leaving them with the possibility of their children being put into care.

He eventually agreed to put back the case until next May, to monitor the school attendance of the teenage boy, after the man said he would give “a guarantee” that his son would go to school every day.

In the witness box, the father said that his son was on “the laptop” and playing online games late at night and would then refuse to get out of bed in the morning. “We can’t physically go in and drag him out of the bed,” he said.

They had five other children and they were in school or college and doing well, the court heard.

Educational welfare officer Damien White told the court that, from September 1 of 2011 until May 4 last, the boy missed 50 days of school. Since a legal notice was issued to the family on May 4, he attended every day except one during that month but was absent for 13 days so far during the current school year.

“That was rather concerning, I felt,” Mr White said. The impression he got from the parents was that they had “difficulty with getting him out of bed,” he said.

There were no medical or psychological problems with the boy and his teachers said he was “an excellent pupil” in school when present. They enjoyed having him in school and he integrated well with the others.

He was involved with the family since 2008 and some of the boy’s siblings had also had issues with not attending school, but had gone on to do the Junior Cert or Leaving Cert. The boy was “quite aware” that others had not always attended and now felt he was “picked on, almost,” Mr White said.

He hadn’t missed any days since Wednesday of the previous week, he said.

Judge Finn said that, at the age of 16, the boy didn’t have the right to “dictate the pace” regarding use of computers at home and attending school. The important issue was that he should go to school every day and it was up to his parents to ensure that happened.

The judge adjourned the case until next May, giving the National Educational Welfare Board liberty to re-enter it if they had any more concerns.