For anyone wondering just how far Ireland has come since we banished pregnant women to the Magdalene Laundries should take a good read of the recent statement from the Childrens’ Ombudsman regarding the actions of school A.
tl;dr? Here are some exerts showing the school’s correspondence to the Ombudsman and the mother and child in question:
’Do not try to blame this school for having a moral code. You have no business coming down here to single us out – we are a Catholic school and shall remain so’.
‘Your letter surprises me. A neighbour called at your request and stated that your daughter was pregnant. I was shocked and told her that I did not take in such girls. She conveyed the message to you’.
’This is the first correspondence I have seen from you. We do not take single young girls who are mothers. This is not a suitable school for such’.
‘Neither am I obliged to have any other frills that you mention. This school is NOT a haven for young pregnant people or for young mothers who, in particular, have been in two other post primary schools. The school has an uncompromising ethos and will not become a dumping ground for those rejected elsewhere”.
‘it was always our policy not to entertain pregnant girls and that of some other local schools’
Wow. Queue outrage from various Ministers which, as always, will be soon forgotten and this issue (and the bigger issue of school enrollment) will be side lined and buried.
How did the girl in question feel? In her own words with additions from the Ombudsman:
‘felt put into a low category, .that I was not good enough to be in his school, I felt ashamed and embarrassed that someone could make me feel this was for being a single young mother. I wouldn’t wish this feeling on anyone else, I was very emotional
and stressed by it. I felt hurt and discriminated against as my child wouldn’t stop me having an education’.
She said it also made her upset for her baby. She explained that this initially made her not want to go back to school at all. She felt that the school did not see that she wanted to complete her education for her and her baby and worries that no one thinks she wants to make a difference for her child. She spoke about worrying about what people will think of her, that they may be judging her and thinking that she will get nowhere.
Her mother stated her view that the actions of the school impacted on her daughter’s self-belief, that she has no self-belief and does not believe in her abilities. She reports that as a result of the school’s actions, ‘the damage to her self esteem is immeasurable’.
As a side note, this investigation further highlights the good work of Emily Logan and the benefit and absolute need for having a strong and independent Ombudsman for Children.