Father hits out at school in truancy prosecution

By Trevor Quinn of the Wairarapa Times-Age

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

A father accused of failing to ensure his then 15-year-old daughter attended school has blamed the board of trustees for not trying to resolve her difficulties.

The girl, who is now 16, attended Wairarapa's Kuranui College but frequently failed to attend school last year, which led to her parents facing a rare charge under the Education Act.

Parents or carers are legally responsible for ensuring their children between the ages of 6 to 16 attend school.

Appearing today in Masterton District Court, the father of the girl, who cannot be named, said the school's board of trustees and the school had never contacted him or the girl's mother despite their reservations over her truancy.

He said his daughter had a number of health issues such as self-harming yet the school had never sent a letter or made a phone call to try to resolve the situation.

"This incident is so serious that this is the first charge in 35 years, and I believe that if we'd been called before the board of trustees or school they would see the problems that we have with our daughter,'' he said. "They don't understand any of it.''

The school has said it communicated with the family by sending letters as well as making contact through community agency intervention.

The girl's father said the case had cost his family a substantial amount of money and emotional turmoil.

It had compromised the health of the girl's mother, who had been suffering from stress for the past two years and had to give up her job.

Defence lawyer Louise Elder told Judge Susan Thomas the girl had now finished school and was not due to return to the education system. "It seems pointless from a practical point of view to carry on [with the case] when the child is no longer in the system,'' she said.

Lawyer James Elliot, who was representing the school, said the board were required under the Education Act to pursue legal action and there were "no winners''.

Judge Thomas said it would be surprising if there had been no communication. "It would seem somewhat unusual if there has been no discussion before formal charges were laid.''

Judge Thomas adjourned the case until March to allow further discussion by the school's board of trustees.

If convicted the parents of the child could face a fine of $300, which could potentially increase to $3000 for subsequent offences.

- APNZ

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