Truant Irish teen's parent 'could face jail'

132 summonses were issued to parents who failed to ensure that their children attended school last year
Image caption 132 summonses were issued to parents who failed to ensure that their children attended school last year

The parents of an Irish teenager who has missed 91 school days this year have been told one of them will be jailed if their son misses classes in the next month.

Judge Alan Mitchell issued the warning during a court case brought against a 15-year-old Galway boy's parents.

He said: "If you don't want a parent to go to jail, and want a qualification, you have to go to school."

The judge agreed to adjourn the case until 10 April.

The National Educational Welfare Board brought the case due to the boy's history of truancy from school - despite having been previously made aware of the consequences.

The case began at Galway District Court on Tuesday but was adjourned overnight.

The judge told the teenager's parents on Tuesday: "Overnight you need to decide which of you is going into prison for 21 days and who's getting a suspended sentence - your son can decide that."

The boy appeared in court on Thursday, but his solicitor did not wish him to give evidence, due to his age.

The solicitor said there had been lengthy consultations with the family in relation to the threat.

"Obviously, he wants neither of his parents to go to prison," she said.

"I am assured that he will go to school tomorrow (Thursday)."

The judge agreed to put the matter back to "see if there is a change of attitude" by both the parents and the child.

"Various supports have been made available and you haven't necessarily co-operated," he said to them.

"You have to obey what your parents tell you, and what the law tells you. There are two and a half weeks left of term. I want you to be there every day (until the Easter holidays) and on the first two days of next term."

He told the boy that he could not hope to get on the road to employment without a basis of education.

Adjourning the case, the judge added: "If you are not in attendance one of your parents will have to have their bags packed because they will be going to prison that day."

On Wednesday, Paul McCavera, Galway city education welfare officer with the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB), told the court there had been a "long history of engagement with the family" but this had ended last year.

Both parents had previously been summonsed to court but the father had failed to attend, resulting in a bench warrant being issued for him.

Mr McCavera added that a range of support services had been offered to the family, but they had failed to avail of them.

He agreed with a solicitor for the family that the teen had no interest in attending school.

However, he rejected the suggestion that the family had done everything they could to persuade him to attend.

The court heard that the boy in question was "a very pleasant child" who had no discipline problems in school.

The BBC has learned that last year, the board issued 132 summonses to parents who failed to ensure that their children attended school with 30 ending in convictions for the parents.

Five of those convicted received suspended prison sentences, 17 were fined and the remaining eight cases, although recorded as convictions, were still before the courts.

A spokeswoman said court proceedings were issued "where the parents refuse to co-operate with the board and have failed in their duty to ensure their children attend school".