Five ways to complain if your ETB school refuses to give your child an alternative subject to religion

Atheist Ireland is still receiving queries from parents regarding the refusal of ETB schools, teachers and principals to implement the Circular Letter on opting out of religion issued by the Department of Education last February.

When we met the Department of Education about this last year, the Department confirmed to Atheist Ireland, The Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that parents could opt out their children from the following and choose another subject.

  1. Catholic Religious Instruction
  2. The State Religious Education Course
  3. A combination of the State Religious Education Course and Catholic Religious Instruction.

Atheist Ireland will soon be meeting the Department of Education again in relation to the Circular Letter. We will continue to press for ETB schools and Teachers to implement the Circular Letter and to stop breaching the rights of minorities. You can read our latest article about this here.

If your local ETB school, Religion Teacher, or Principal, has refused to implement the Circular Letter and permit your child to opt out of the Religious Education course and pick another subject, you can do any or all of the following:

  1. Contact Atheist Ireland
  2. Complain to the Department of Education
  3. Complain to the Teaching Council about Religion Teachers and Principals
  4. Complain to the Ombudsman for Children
  5. Complain to your local Councillor

1. Contact Atheist Ireland

Contact Atheist Ireland if you want advice on how to make a formal complaint. You can email us at humanrights@atheist.ie

2. Complain to the Department of Education

The Circular Letter states that queries in relation to this circular should be e-mailed to the Department at:

schoolgovernance@education.gov.ie

Make sure that you give the name of the ETB school that has refused to implement the Circular. You could also give the Department the name/s of any Teacher/s or Principal that has refused to implement the Circular.

3. Complain to the Teaching Council about Religion Teachers and Principals

Teachers are breaching the Code of Professional Conduct for Teachers as they are refusing to work within the framework of relevant legislation and regulations.

In addition, they are not respectful of the rights of minorities who have conscientious objections to the Religious Education course. If the religion Teacher or Principal have questioned you or interrogated your child with regard to your reasons for opting out then you can complain about them.

If a teacher forces your child into the Religion course, then you can make a complaint about them. This behaviour is not permitted and it breaches the rights of minorities.

Religion Teachers and Principals are also

“failing to comply with, or contravening a provision of the Teaching Council Acts, 2001-2015, the Education Act, 1998, the Education Welfare Act, 2000, the Education and Training Boards Act, 2013, and any regulations, rules or orders made under those Acts.”

If you do not wish to send in a complaint to the Teaching Council, perhaps because you fear your child will be victimised, then members of the public can send in complaints and the name of the parent or child need not be mentioned.

Atheist Ireland will send in complaints if parents get in touch with us. You can contact us at humanrights@atheist.ie

“Any person, including members of the public, employers and other teachers may make a complaint about a registered teacher. In addition, the Teaching Council can itself make a complaint about a registered teacher.”

If a parent or member of the public complains about a Teacher or the Principal, then they will need to first make a complaint to the Board of Management of the school, as the disciplinary procedures in the school must be exhausted first.

You can find details of how to make a complaint here.

4. Complain to the Ombudsman for Children

You can take a complaint to the Ombudsman for Children:-

“If you think a public body or organisation’s actions have negatively affected a child or children, you can contact us and make a complaint.”

Parents must first take any complaint to the Board of Management. If a complaint is not settled and the Board of Management of your local ETB refuses to comply with the Circular Letter issued by the Department of Education then you can take your complaint to the Ombudsman for Children.

Atheist Ireland will help parents take a complaint forward. You can contact us at humanrights@atheist.ie

You can find more information here about complaints to the Ombudsman for Children.

It just takes one parent to make such a complaint.  If they are successful then it will ensure that the Circular Letter on religion will be implemented for all children that wish to avail of it.

5. Complain to your local Councillor

Some County Councillors are on the Board of your local ETB. In addition, some are on the Board of Management of ETBs.

You can find out what Councillors are on the Board of your local ETB by checking their website. The school should be able to let you know what Councillors are on the Board of Management. Some ETB school websites have this information.

For example here is a link to Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB and it gives a list of all the Councillors on the Board

Ask your local Councillor to do something to ensure that ETBs implement the Circular Letter from the Department of Education and to stop ETB schools and some of their Teachers from undermining the rights of parents and their children.

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