Mum pros­e­cuted af­ter kids miss school

The Napier Mail - - FRONT PAGE - MARTY SHARPE

A Hawke’s Bay school is pros­e­cut­ing a mother whose two chil­dren have failed to at­tend school for much of the year.

The woman, whose name is sup­pressed, ap­peared in Napier District Court on Wed­nes­day.

She faces two charges of hav­ing chil­dren who failed to at­tend school reg­u­larly. She pleaded not guilty and was re­manded at large un­til next month.

The chil­dren were en­rolled at the pri­mary school early in 2015. By Septem­ber that year the school iden­ti­fied at­ten­dance as a prob­lem. It is al­leged that when the chil­dren did not ar­rive at school staff sent the woman a text mes­sage. She would of­ten re­ply by say­ing they were run­ning late or stay­ing home sick.

But the chil­dren ap­peared healthy and school staff be­came sus­pi­cious, so they re­quired the woman to pro­duce med­i­cal cer­tifi­cates when the chil­dren were ab­sent due to sick­ness.

For two years the school tried to re­solve the is­sue. Staff tried to iden­tify the cause of tru­ancy and to en­cour­age the woman to make the chil­dren at­tend. It held meet­ings with her and it sent a series of let­ters ad­vis­ing her of the pos­si­bil­ity of pros­e­cu­tion.

In Fe­bru­ary this year the school told the woman to contact the school to ar­range a meet­ing about the mat­ter.

The let­ters noted that be­tween Jan­uary 30 and Fe­bru­ary 28 one of the chil­dren had at­tended less than 40 per cent of class time. The other had at­tended about 74 per cent.

Fur­ther meet­ings were held with the mother in March and April, and let­ters were sent to her in April, May and June, warn­ing that the school’s Board of Trus­tee would have to pros­e­cute her if things did not im­prove.

Then the board laid charges. So far this year one of the chil- dren had been ab­sent half the time; the other had been ab­sent 25 per cent of the time.

Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion head of sec­tor en­able­ment and sup­port Ka­t­rina Casey said the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity for mak­ing sure chil­dren go to school sits with par­ents.

Un­der the Ed­u­ca­tion Act 1989 par­ents can be li­able for a fine not ex­ceed­ing $30 for ev­ery day a child is ab­sent from school, up to a max­i­mum $300. A se­cond con­vic­tion can see a par­ent fined $3000.

The fines are payable to the school’s Board of Trustees.

The woman ap­peared in Napier District Court last week.

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