The Equality Tribunal has awarded €750 to the parents of a young Protestant schoolboy who was discriminated against on religious grounds by his primary school.
The equality officer in the case also ordered the Gaelscoil (Irish-speaking school) in question to review its policies and procedures to ensure that they are in line with the Equal Status Acts.
The complaining parents contended that their son was discriminated against because he was a Protestant. The school was set up with an interdenominational ethos to include Catholic and Protestant faiths.
Problems emerged when the boy’s class was preparing for First Communion. The parents asked if their son could sit out of practice but were told by the principal that if he was in school he had to participate.
According to the case file, the parents said they questioned the amount of time spent on Catholic education and were told that if they did not like it, they were perfectly within their rights to remove their child from the school and enroll him elsewhere.
The tribunal heard that the boy was ordered by the principal to stand against a classroom wall as punishment for not attending a First Communion ceremony with his classmates at a local Catholic church. He was also excluded from a “homework holiday” in which the other children who made their First Communion at the church were rewarded.
The children were given a special note from the principal excusing them doing homework for two days. The Protestant boy was not excused and he found this very upsetting, the tribunal was told.
In a subsequent meeting, the parents claim that the principal told them they were part of the “rebel crowd” who broke away from the one true religion.
In its response to the complaint, the school said it rewarded students who attended events outside school hours and behaved in an “excellent manner.”
It noted that pupils had given up their Saturday morning, with many “missing out on swimming lessons, GAA, rugby coaching or just ‘chill out’ time.”
On the day of the hearing last year, however, the board of management of the school and its current principal apologised to the parents for the treatment to their boy by the other principal, who is currently on administrative leave.