Couple take son out of school in row over religious education
A SOUTH Wicklow couple say they have been left with no option but to keep their four-yearold son home from school due to conflicting opinions about how religious education is taught there.
Parents Alma Carey-Zungia and Ken Kiernan who do not wish their son to receive any Catholic religious education while at school selected Annacurra N.S. last year after they were assured that this was not a problem.
‘The only options in our area were Catholic schools so we met with three separate schools and felt that Annacurra N.S. was the one we felt most assured by. The principal went out of his way to let us
know this was not a problem and was very reassuring,’ explained Ms. Carey-Zuniga.
After a short time the couple noticed their son talking a lot about Jesus and they raised their concerns with the school.
‘We were told that our son would not have to receive ‘formal’ religious teaching but that ‘informal’ teaching was done throughout the day. The school agreed to reschedule the formal class to the end of the day so that we could pick our son up early but we were told there was no way to avoid the informal aspect.’
The couple say they have no problem with the school’s ethos or its teaching of religious education but believe their son should have the right not to receive it.
‘We feel pressurised by the school’s response and that proper guidelines should be in place to help deal with this. ‘We don’t feel comfortable sending our son back until
the matter is resolved and he has now been at home for over two months.’ Ms. Carey-Zuniga and Mr. Kieran removed their son from school temporarily until the matter was resolved to their satisfaction.
They informed the school of their decision and requested a meeting and received a letter of response directing them to the National Education and Welfare Board which deals with cases where children are not attending school on an ongoing basis.
The Board’s response was that it has no legal authority to get involved in the matter.
‘The Department of Education informed the couple that this is an issue which can be dealt with on a local level but we cannot even get a meeting. We were told locally that there is nothing more the school can do. We feel that our concerns are not being taken seriously and that the school would prefer if we moved our son somewhere else,’ they said.
Alma Carey-Zuniga and Ken Kiernan from Aughrim.