Kicked out of School Because I Was Having a Baby. If I'd Had an Abortion I Could've Stayed.; STUDENT WINS Pounds 9k COMPO FOR DISCRIMINATION
Byline: JOANNE McELGUNN
AN IRISH girl banned from her convent school for getting pregnant when she was 16 has been awarded more than EUR9,000 in compensation.
Margaret McCluskey was seven months pregnant when she was suspended and barred from sitting her exams.
But Margaret - now 21 and the mother of four-year-old girl Judina - said yesterday: "They wouldn't have suspended me if I'd had an abortion.
"The only reason I wasn't allowed back into school was because I had a bump.
"They're hypocrites. It shows you what kind of values they really uphold.
"When people are at their lowest point you help them, not push them out the door."
Margaret was studying for her GCSE exams at Mount Lourdes convent school in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, when she became pregnant.
She said: "I didn't consider having an abortion. It didn't cross my mind.
"I am convinced that my suspension had everything to do with appearance and nothing to do with the school's 'Catholic ethos'.
"When I gave birth I was allowed to return to school.
"It reminds me of the old days when girls that got pregnant were sent off to the work house. They're still stuck in that era.
"That's one of the reasons I took action. It could happen again - not just in Mount Lourdes but anywhere in Ireland."
Margaret, who sued the school for sexual discrimination, tried to hide her pregnancy from her teacher and school bosses.
She said: "I didn't tell them a thing and I told my mum not to tell them.
"I was just going to carry on the way things were and then my mum told them at a parent and teacher meeting.
"I didn't know they knew until the Easter holidays, but when they were over I went back to school. I was determined to continue my education."
But at roll call she detected "a funny sort of atmosphere" and later that morning the headmaster called her to his office.
Margaret said: "That was the first time the school told me directly to leave."
When she asked why, she was told that her pregnancy conflicted with the school's "Catholic ethos".
The shocked student asked the headmaster to put her suspension in writing.
That hand-written note proved invaluable when she decided to take legal action against the school authorities.
She said: "I was very young and I wasn't going to let it go. And although I remained suspended I was determined to continue my education.
"I did some work at home and basically had to walk up and down to school every day and get work handed to me in a big brown envelope and then return it to the teachers to get it marked.
"That is how I carried on for the last month or so of my pregnancy. …