Parents frustrated by truancy charge

By Trevor Quinn -
The girl frequently failed to attend school last year, which led to her parents facing a rare charge under the Education Act. Photo / Thinkstock
The girl frequently failed to attend school last year, which led to her parents facing a rare charge under the Education Act. Photo / Thinkstock

A Masterton father accused of failing to ensure his 15-year-old daughter attended school says his family has been put through hell.

Truancy charges against the parents of the Kuranui College student were dropped in Masterton District Court yesterday.

The father of the girl said the stress over the case had led to his wife suffering from a nervous breakdown, while legal bills have run into thousands of dollars.

After court the father said he believed their treatment had been "disgusting".

"I'm very angry ... My wife has suffered a nervous breakdown and has had to take three months off work.

"This is worse than a physical assault, this is a psychological assault."

The father, who has name suppression to protect the daughter's identity, said they had done everything in their power to ensure their girl attended school.

But his daughter had a number of medical problems including self-harming, suicidal tendencies and other mental health issues.

She is still not attending school, but at age 16 is no longer legally required to attend.

He said the case had had a devastating effect on the family, and was "the straw that broke the camel's back".

The father of three said Kuranui College had not written or communicated with them about the truancy. He said they were only made aware of the situation when they received a summons to attend court.

The school strenuously deny this claim.

Principal Geoff Shepherd said they followed all relevant procedures before taking the last course of action open to them which was to prosecute parents for the first time in 35 years.

The girl frequently failed to attend school last year, which led to her parents facing a rare charge under the Education Act.

Mr Shepherd said the school wrote to the family as well as making regular contact. He said they also suggested the family attend family group conferences and community agency intervention.

"We had nowhere to go apart from prosecution because the girl's attendance had not come back up," Mr Shepherd said.

"Her attendance was never satisfactory, however, we wouldn't have went to the final stage of prosecution had we known some of the medical circumstances."

Mr Shepherd said that the school had decided to drop the charges because they were not aware of the medical issues.

In a statement released yesterday he said: "New information was presented to us that had we been aware of in advance would have stopped us from ever getting as far as prosecution."

"We have followed the process of dealing with truancy as prescribed by the Ministry of Education.

"It's a lengthy process and prosecution which often takes place too late to be effective."

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