In this case, the Complainant submitted that he has been subjected to discrimination on the grounds of gender, civil status and family status contrary to the Equal Status Acts in relation to the Respondent or School’s decision to proceed with the enrolment of his daughter in school despite the fact that he, being her joint legal guardian, did not consent to such enrolment
The School disputed the claim of discrimination and contended that that it was duty bound to enrol children in accordance with its enrolment policy and that it was not a matter for it, or any other school, to interfere in family law issues and that the Complainant’s daughter was enrolled by her mother, who was her legal guardian, and as such had full legal status and the right to enrol her child in the school.
The Respondent further contended that in circumstances where there exists a conflict between legal guardians of children as to which school a child should attend, it was a matter for the parents to resolve such conflict either by way of mutual agreement or by way of Court Order.
In respect of the claim for discrimination on the grounds of gender, the central plank of the Complainant’s complaint of discrimination related to his claim that the School treated him less favourably than the mother of his daughter by disregarding and failing to recognise his authority as her joint legal guardian and proceeding to enrol her in the school without his consent.
The Workplace Relations Commission noted that an educational establishment discriminated on the gender ground where it treated one parent (e.g. the mother) more favourably than the other (e.g. the father) with regard to their child’s education where both parents had equal rights of guardianship.
The Adjudicator noted that it was clear that the Respondent was fully aware prior to the completion of the enrolment process that there was a dispute between her two legal guardians in relation to this matter. It noted that a school had no jurisdiction to decide matters pertaining to guardianship and in circumstances where such parents/legal guardians could not agree to matters pertaining to their children’s welfare, including decisions relating to education, then such matters must be decided upon by a court.
The Workplace Relations Commission found that the School failed to rebut the inference of discrimination on the grounds of gender in relation to the enrolment of the Complainant’s daughter in the school in the circumstances of the present case.
The school was ordered to pay the Complainant €3,500.00 in compensation for the effects of the discrimination and to also review its admissions policy with a view to making any necessary amendments to ensure that the principles of equality are applied to both male and female legal guardians in the assessment of applications for enrolment.
A copy of the link to the decision can be found here https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/cases/2019/december/adj-00013996.html