Father criticises school over truancy case

SEAMUS BOYER
Last updated 13:00 18/12/2012

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Wairarapa

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A father accused of failing to ensure his daughter attended school has hit back at the school's leadership.

The man, who cannot be named, accused the school of failing to fulfil its obligations to his daughter, and of ruining the health of his wife.

The pair face a rare prosecution under the Education Act for not ensuring their daughter, then aged 15, attended Wairarapa's Kuranui College.

The school has said that the parents failed to raise the girl's attendance at the Greytown school despite two years of letters, conferences and intervention from community agencies.

Today at Masterton District Court the man told Judge Susan Thomas that the matter ''should never have even got to court.''

''This has cost our family a substantial amount of money to defend this charge.

''My wife has sustained duress, stress and hasn't been able to work.''

He and his wife deny the charges, saying they were never spoken to by either the school's principal or board of trustees.

Their daughter also had health problems that had not been taken into account.

''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. .. they would see the problems that we have with our daughter,'' the man said.

The parents' lawyer Louise Elder said the girl was now 16, had finished school for the year, and would not return next year.

''It seems pointless from a practical point of view to carry on when the child is no longer in the system.''

The school's lawyer James Elliot said the board had no choice but to pursue legal action, because it was ''hamstrung'' by provisions within the Education Act.

''It's a situation where there's no winners ... but unfortunately the school is required to take such steps under the act.''

Kuranui principal Geoff Shepherd has previously said he felt the school had run out of options, after the girl's attendance consistently remained ''well below'' 80 per cent from the age of 13.

All parents and carers are legally obliged to ensure their child goes to school each day while they are between the ages of 6 and 16.

If found guilty the parents face a fine of up to $300, which could increase to $3000 for a second or subsequent offence.

Judge Thomas adjourned the case until March to give the school's board of trustees further time to discuss it.

Contact Seamus Boyer
Wairarapa reporter
Email: seamus.boyer@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @SeamusBoyer

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