EDUCATION MINISTER Ruairi Quinn has announced details of a forum to explore how bullying in schools can be stopped – with a special initiative to tackle homophobic bullying.
The Anti-Bullying Forum will be held in mid-May and is set to include representatives from schools, support groups and parents and student groups.
It will consider whether changes should be made to policies currently in place in schools, and identify short-term recommendations and steps that can be taken to help tackle the problem.
Alongside the forum, a new working group is being established on how to deal with specific types of bullying including racial abuse, cyberbullying and homophobia, which will be the first matter addresses.
It is intended that the findings of the larger forum can be used to inform the working group’s deliberations and help it to come up with more appropriate ways of tackling the various types of abuse.
“Bullying in school can ruin a young person’s enjoyment of some of the most important years of their life,” Quinn said. “In extreme situations it can also, tragically, lead to a young person taking their own life.”
LGBT groups GLEN and BeLonG To welcomed the news of the working group, complimenting the government on following the Programme for Government commitment to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.
“The goal of eliminating homophobic bullying is a very realisable goal,” Michael Barron of BeLonG To, a support group for young people, said.
“The Minister’s Working Group provides a critically important opportunity to create safe, supportive and affirming schools for young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
Sandra Irwin-Gowran, director of education policy at GLEN (the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network), said that if left unchecked, homophobic bullying ”has an impact on all students who learn the high price of being different”.