Friday, 13 September 2013
New anti-bullying procedures publication by the Minister for Education and Skills will help tackle bullying and reduce incidences of bullying in schools.
The new guidelines will require all schools to have education and prevention strategies in place to deal with all forms of bullying. This is an update of existing guidelines which were last issued in 1993. It will help bring procedures in line with the changes in society and of technology and help tackle a problem which affects one in four 9 to 17 year olds.
Recently we have all become aware of the increasing problem of cyber-bullying, continuing the problem beyond the playground and into the homes of children. For the victims of bullying technology has effectively ended the refuge of the home, in some cases it means that a victim is virtually bringing the bully home with them. The Anti-Bullying Centre in Trinity College found that one in four girls and one in six boys in Ireland have been involved in cyber-bullying either as a victim, bully or both. I hope that these new guidelines, which explicitly includes cyber-bullying in the definition of bullying, will help in dealing with this troubling behaviour.
The guidelines also focus on identity based bullying, including homophobic and transphobic bullying. A person’s identity, a person’s sexuality or gender, is a core part of a person’s being, the fundamental elements of self. The Supporting LGBT Lives study that was funded by the National Office for Suicide Prevention found that 60% of LGBT people reported homophobic bullying and 35% reported homophobic comments from teachers in their schools. The strong focus on identity based bullying in these guidelines must become the basis for reducing homophobic and transphobic bullying.
I welcome the Minister’s initiative in providing much needed and up-to-date guidelines. Each school must now develop its anti-bullying policy in accordance with the procedures set out and it must be in place before the end of the current school year. Bullying can have a life-long impact; it can have a terrible and corrosive impact on our children and young people. I hope that these guidelines will be the basis for a renewed effort to combat this negative behaviour.