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CBS Clonmel Overturn Equality Tribunal Findings

Ardscoil na mBraithre the CBS High School, in Clonmel has successfully appealed against an earlier Equality Tribunal finding, which ruled that the school indirectly discriminated against members of the Travelling Community and others when it refused a Traveller child admission.
The school had argued that their actions did not constitute discrimination, because 83 other children from the locality had also been refused admission, due to their parents having not attended this same establishment.

Judge Thomas Teehan allowed the appeal against the decision of the Equality Tribunal, that it should offer John Stokes a place and also their direction for the school to review its current admission policy, thus ensuring that in future it did not indirectly discriminate against any child of the state.

Thirteen year old John Stokes, through his mother Mary Stokes, latter instructed by the Irish Traveller Movement Independent Law Centre, first lodged a complaint against the Clonmel school based on the grounds that the school had breached the Equal Status Act 2000.

John Stokes had applied in November 2009 to attend the CBS School, having attended a local primary school in Clonmel town. However there were 174 student applications applying for just 140 places available, at this educational facility, at that time.

The school selected pupils on the basis of an agreed admission policy and based on three criteria:-
(1) The students father or another older sibling had previously attended the school.
(2) He was Roman Catholic.
(3) He had attended a primary school in the locality.

While John Stokes met the last two criteria of the school boards criteria, John Stokes was the eldest boy in his family, and his father had never attended the school in question.

The student, through his family, had unsuccessfully appealed this initial refusal by the school, to the Department of Education, and failing here, had appealed to the Equality Tribunal, on the grounds that requiring a parent to have previously attended the school, disproportionately affected the rights of the Irish Travelling Community and others.

Judge Teehan said that he was satisfied that the parental rule was discriminatory against Travellers and indeed others, whose parents were unlikely to have had the opportunity of attending this school previously. However, it fell to the school to demonstrate that its admissions policy could be fairly justified, and he found that supporting family ethos within education had amounted to a legitimate aim by the school.

Judge Teehan also found that the policy was appropriate in a case where numbers of students applying, exceeded available existing places. This parental rule, by the school, assisted in striking a fair balance between academic results and admissions, based on these exceptional circumstances.
He further noted that the CBS School had highlighted the importance of ties between their school and their past pupils in terms of meeting funding shortfalls and therefore this parental rule was necessary in creating a balanced and a proportionate admissions policy.
The school was therefore within its legal rights to reject a student because his father was not a past pupil.

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