Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Protestant boy punished for not attending Catholic First Communion

The board of a school in the Republic has been ordered to pay a Protestant schoolboy €750 after a principal referred to the boy's parents as part of the "rebel crowd" and punished him for not attending First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies.

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 schoolmates
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 schoolmates

The principal, who is currently on administrative leave, was found guilty of religious discrimination by the Equality Tribunal. The ruling came after the boy's parents lodged a complaint of discrimination on the basis of religion over the way he was treated at the state school. He had attended the school since he was a junior infant, starting in 2004.

 

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 schoolmates at a local Roman Catholic church, despite being a member of the Church of Ireland.

 

He was also excluded from a "homework holiday" in which the other children who had made their First Communion at the church were rewarded.

 

The children were given a special note from the principal excusing them from doing homework for two days while the boy in question was not, which he found very upsetting, the tribunal heard. The parents, who are not named, said the principal had told them the school was "interdenominational" when they initially enrolled their son in school.

 

However, only Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland faiths would be taught in class.

 

They later complained about a "significant" amount of school time being spent on preparing Catholic children for the their First Communion and Confirmation. The principal told the boy's mother that she "obviously had a problem with religion" and made derogatory remarks about her faith, including references to her Protestant religion as being part of "the rebel crowd," the tribunal heard.

 

After they complained about him, the parents said the principal then started "bullying" their other children attending the school. The principal in question is currently on administrative leave from the school, the tribunal was told.

 

On the day of the Equality Tribunal hearing, the chair of the school's board of management and the school's current principal "made an unreserved apology to the complainant's parents in relation to the alleged treatment by the principal regarding the treatment of their son," the tribunal wrote.

 

"The chairperson stated that she was not in a position to dispute the facts, and takes on board the issues as outlined by the complainant's parents."

 

The tribunal also ordered the board of management at the unnamed national school to review its policies to ensure it complies with the Equal Status Act.

By Allison Bray

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