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 teenage girl has not attended class at all in the current school year while her younger brother has missed 80 out of 117 school days.
At a district court in the west of the country, the judge was told the girl’s mother informed a Tusla education welfare officer that her daughter was not attending school because "she didn’t like it" and suffers from "anxiety".
The Tusla officer said that the boy wasn’t attending school because of "headaches" and that he was being bullied at school. However, she said there was no evidence to support the bullying claim.
The judge said that the anxiety explanation for the girl “has been pulled out of the bag today at the very last minute in the heel of the hunt”.
The judge told the mother: “She will have anxiety if you go to jail and she will have anxiety if she doesn’t get an education.
"If she is suffering from anxiety, why didn’t you do something about it?"
The father was not in court and the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. The court was told that he is working outside the county where the family lives.
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 teenage girl lives in the family home located close to her school.
Addressing the mother, the judge 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.”
The judge said that the penalty for not ensuring that their child attends school “is jail and I have no difficulty if that child is not in school every day sending one or both of you to jail”.
The judge 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”.
“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 judge adjourned both cases to June 21st to the district court.