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Father awarded €3.5k in discrimination case over daughter's enrolment in school

The father took the gender discrimination case under the Equal Status Act at the Workplace Relations Commission.
Sep 24th 2019, 9:07 PM 43,686 0

A PARENTS’ ROW over the enrolment of their daughter in a Co Clare school has resulted in the school being ordered to pay the father €3,500 compensation in a discrimination case.

This follows the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) upholding the girl’s father’s claim 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 concerning their daughter’s enrolment.

The father took the gender discrimination case under the Equal Status Act against the school BOM after the school enrolled the girl for the 2017/18 school year without his consent.

The parents are estranged and share joint legal guardianship of their daughter.

Along with ordering the school’s BOM to pay the father €3,500 for the effects of the discrimination, WRC adjudication officer, Enda Murphy has ordered that the BOM should review its admissions policy with a view to making any necessary amendments to ensure that the principles of equality are applied to both male and female legal guardians in the assessment of applications for enrolment.

In the case in April 2017, the father became aware that his former partner applied to have their daughter enrolled in the school in January 2017.

The father said that he contacted the school on 10 April 2017 and informed the school that he didn’t consent to the enrolment and provided the school with a copy of a court order confirming that he was a legal guardian of the girl.

The father wrote to the school principal on 14 August 2017 and to the chair of the BOM on 30 August 2017 concerning his objections to the enrolment.

According to the school, the father in his letter of 30 August 2017 confirmed that if the school did not desist from this “unlawful act immediately” he would instigate proceedings against the chairperson of the school and the patron.

The girl was now attending the school and the school principal wrote to the father on 30 August 2017 advising him that both himself and the girl’s mother should sort this matter out between themselves in the interest of their daughter.

Discrimination claim

The father told the WRC that the school enrolled his daughter according to the wishes of his mother and did not take his position as a male or father into consideration.

He claimed that the school deliberately discriminated against him as a father, parent and legal guardian and failed to remedy the situation when the matter was brought to its attention.

The father told the WRC that the BOM had a choice in relation to the enrolment of his daughter and ultimately chose in favour of her mother.

He argued that as a father and legal guardian, he has the exact same rights to choose his daughter’s education and welfare as that of her mother.

In his findings, Murphy found that the father as joint guardian was fully entitled to object to the enrolment of his daughter in the school.

Murphy stated that in the circumstances, he has taken the view that it was incumbent on the school BOM to bring the father’s objection to the attention of the mother of their daughter and to defer any decision on the enrolment application until the issue had been decided upon by the courts.

The adjudication officer stated that the school was fully aware prior to the completion of the enrolment process that there was a dispute between her two parents concerning the enrolment.

Murphy stated that a school BOM has no jurisdiction to decide matters pertaining to guardianship and in circumstances where such legal guardians cannot agree to matters pertaining to their child’s welfare, including decisions relating to education, then such matters must be decided upon by a court.

Murphy stated he is satisfied that the school BOM failed to act in such a manner but instead proceeded to enrol the man’s daughter in the school even though it was fully aware of the dispute between her parents in relation to the matter.

He stated: “I find that the respondent in doing so, subjected the complainant to discrimination on the grounds of gender in relation to his daughter’s enrolment in the school.”

Board of management

The school BOM told the WRC that in a letter dated 11 September 2017, the BOM chairperson wrote to the father to confirm that his daughter was enrolled in the school in good faith and in the absence of any knowledge of any dispute regarding her enrolment.

The chairperson stated that it could not intervene in any family law dispute between legal guardians regarding attendance or enrolment of the school.

They advised that the matter may be resolved either by agreement between the legal guardians or by way of a court order.

The chairperson told the father that the school had no wish or interest in taking sides in any dispute between parents and that the school’s policy was to treat all parents equally.

They also assured the father that the school respected the fact that he was joint guardian of his daughter and that his legitimate right as a guardian would be respected.

The school BOM stated that it did not treat the father less favourably than a person of a different gender.

It told the WRC that the daughter was enrolled by her mother who is her legal guardian and as such has full legal status and the right to enrol her child in the school.

The BOM stated that it acted in accordance with its enrolment policy and applicable duty on schools to enrol children who apply to their school.

It stated that to act otherwise, as is suggested by the father, would be a postponement of his daughter’s right to an education and would be contrary to public policy interest.

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Gordon Deegan

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