A Catholic school has been ordered to apologize to a teenage girl refused enrolment after she became pregnant.
Ireland’s ombudsman Emily Logan has told the school to say sorry to the girl who was turned down for a place on the grounds that the school ‘was not a haven for young pregnant people or for young mothers’.
A report in the Sunday Times states that the girl twice applied to join the school – first in September 2009 when she was pregnant and then again a year later after she had given birth to her baby.
The report states that she was turned down by the principal at the unnamed school – also the owner, founder and patron – after her parents had informed the headmaster of the girl’s pregnancy.
Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan has concluded that the child was denied a place at the school on the first occasion because she was pregnant and on the second because she was a single mother.
Logan told Irish radio that there is currently no enrolment legislation that would prevent a school from acting in this way.
“The spirit of that Education Act is about accessibility and access, the principal has not operated in adherence with that,” she said.
Logan found that the school’s actions adversely affected the girl in question, were improperly discriminatory, were based on undesirable administrative practice, and were contrary to fair and sound administration.
“The Department of Education has taken the response to my recommendations very seriously and the absence of legislation dealing with enrolment is being addressed,” she said.
“I have made four recommendations, three of which are being acted upon by the Department of Education. The first is that they have committed to, and I understand that legislation will be drafted later this year, in relation to enrolment.”
Logan also confirmed that she has told the school to apologise to the child in question.
She added: “I believe that this person, the principal, has mistreated this girl and insensitively treated her and her family and it is my view that at the very least, the girl should be apologised to.
“They have not apologised. I am concerned about a persistent and defiant attitude and I will pursue that locally.”
“What occurred in this school is highly unusual and is not representative of attitudes in schools more broadly.
“It’s very unusual. In the eight years of the operation of my office it is highly unusual that anyone would meet our recommendations with this kind of hostility.
“However the recommendations are not binding. The best power that I have in terms of my mandatory powers, is to go to the Department of Education and request that they would carry out an inspection, that they would look at legislative and policy guidance for schools and they have committed to doing that.”