A JUDGE has threatened to jail the parents of a 12-year-old girl who has only attended 11 school days since last September.
JUDGE Mary Larkin heard that the girl's parents – who are members of the Travelling community – absconded the country with their daughter after a prosecution was brought against them by the Nation Educational Welfare Board (NEWB).
The parents last appeared before Newcastle West district court on January 24.
Until the NEWB brought the parents to court, the girl had not attended a single day in her first year of secondary school during the current academic year.
Since the January court appearance, she has attended 11 of the 18 school days.
However, solicitor for the parents, Michael O'Donnell, told the court yesterday that the family have left for Europe and are "gone for the summer".
Mr O'Donnell told Judge Larkin that this was the nature of their lifestyle and that the family were not likely to come back to Limerick before the next court sitting.
"They do travel and can spend a week or two weeks in any part of Europe," he said.
The NEWB brought the case against the parents for breaching a school attendance notice.
A conviction under the Education Welfare Act 2000 can result in a fine and or a month in prison.
Solicitor for the NEWB, Kate Kiely said the parents had not engaged with their service. Ms Kiely said the message delivered at the previous court appearance of the parents' legal obligations had fallen on deaf ears.
She said the NEWB were not notified that the family were leaving the jurisdiction.
"They have simply absconded," Ms Kiely said.
Judge Larkin said she respected all cultures but said legislation required young people to be educated.
The judge said she was not satisfied and warned that she would impose one or all penalties.
"We are living in Europe now and we can't pack up our bags and walk off the pitch to avoid what is in the best interests of the child."
The judge adjourned the case until April 25 to allow them prepare a defence.
The court also heard evidence from five other cases – all traveller families – where the child's attendance record at their school had vastly improved since the matter was last before the judge. All five cases were adjourned until May.
A school is legally obliged to contact the NEWB if a child misses over 20 days accumulatively in a school year.
The academic year for primary school children is 183 days while secondary school is around 167 days.