A District Judge has warned parents that he has the power to impose heavy fines on them if their children are long term absentees from school without a legitimate and verifiable reason.
Barney McElholm issued the warning at the Magistrate’s Court in Derry after he dealt with eighteen cases of long term school absenteeism.
In one case a primary schoolgirl had a school attendance record of only twenty-five percent and in another case a solicitor told the court that bullying was an issue in relation to a child staying off school.
Another solicitor told Mr. McElholm that the mother of two school children who he represented suffered from agoraphobia. A senior welfare education officer said that long term school absenteeism was “a worrying problem which has effected some families for several years”.
Adjourning the cases for one month in order to monitor any improved attendances, Mr. McElholm said he was also concerned that “some of the cases probably involved young children looking after their parents and I would like my concerns in that regard conveyed to social services”.