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Dublin Circuit Court DubhEire

Circuit court overturns WRC ruling that gave father €3k in school gender discrimination dispute

The judge ruled that the school’s actions could not be determined to be gender discrimination.

DUBLIN CIRCUIT COURT overturned a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruling that awarded a man €3,000 because his child was enrolled in a school without his permission.

The father claimed that he was treated less favourably by the secondary school’s Board of Management (BOM) than the mother of their daughter because he is a man and she is a woman.

Judge John O’Connor was told that the parents of the child, who are divorced, were not in agreement over where she should attend secondary school.

The child was enrolled in school for the 2020/21 school year but her father notified the school that he did not consent to the enrolment, which he claimed was discriminatory.

 The WRC ruled in his favour in September of 2021, alleging discrimination on the grounds of gender contrary to the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015.

He told the court that he was in the belief that the school was required to obtain the consent from both guardians prior to enrolment and that he in fact objected to her being enrolled. 

The father claimed that the school was aware that he was divorced from the child’s mother, and that the school was aware of his contact details but enrolled her with only one parent’s permission.

Counsel for the father cross-examined the school’s principal in court, asking: “The application that was sent into the school was only signed by the child’s mother, and it is the view of the father that if he had sent in the application form, and the Mom had said no, I don’t consent, he would have been treated differently?”

The principal replied, “Definitely not, no,” and later said that both parents had access to the child’s grades as well as invitations to parent-teacher meetings.

When the child’s father asked if he had encountered similar cases in which one parent enrolled a child and the other objected to it, he said he had not. 

The father then asked “should it [the enrolment form] be signed by two parents or is one parent’s signature enough? Which solution is better, if any?” and the principal responded “I have no preference once it is signed, I have no preference”.

The judge concluded the case by allowing the school’s appeal and overturning the WRC’s initial ruling.

He said: 

I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the respondent [the father] has not demonstrated a prima facie case that he was treated less favourably on account of his gender. It is clear both from the submissions, as furnished to the court, and the oral evidence of the school Principal, as given in court, the appellant [school board of management] did not operate a gender discriminatory practice in favour of female parents over male parents in the enrolment policy of the school.

“It is quite apparent from the facts that the Appellant (the principal) was exemplary in its frequent communications with the Respondent (the child’s father) in regards to the child’s education.”

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