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Cyberbullying and homophobic bullying policies now mandatory for schools

The Department of Education has published new anti-bullying procedures to replace guidelines that have been in place since 1993.

SPECIFIC STRATEGIES TO deal with cyberbullying and homophobic bullying are to become mandatory in all 4,000 primary and post-primary schools.

The Department of Education has published new anti-bullying procedures that are required to be adopted, replacing guidelines that have been in place since 1993.

Following consultation with parents and students, each school must develop it’s own individual policies before publishing them on the school’s website.

The anti-bullying policies are required to have a number of elements as per the procedures set out by the department today. Some of the key elements include:

  • A strong emphasis on prevention through the fostering of a positive environment.
  • Making clear that the definition of bullying includes cyberbullying and identity based bullying such as homophobic and racist bullying.
  • Making the resolution of any issues the primary aim of an investigating into bullying rather than opportioning blame.
  • The requirement to carry out an annual review on the effectiveness of procedures.

The publication of the procedures has been welcomed by a number of children’s groups with the ISPCC saying that the issue of bullying has “dominated” their attention recently. The charity has pledged assistance to any school who wants support in implementing the procedures.

The new procedures also make clear that dialogue between parents school authorities is increasingly important in light of the fact that cyberbullying often takes place when the student is at home. This, the department says, is also true of topics that can be ‘masked by prejudice and silence such as homophobic bullying’.

LGBT students

LGBT advocacy groups GLEN and BeLonG have said that the new procedures have the potential to ‘radically transform’ the lives of LGBT people in schools throughout the country

“Every class in every school in Ireland has LGBT students,” according to Michael Barron, director at BeLonG To.

Many schools are already working to create a climate that is safe and supportive for these students. Many other schools, however, are not working to support LGBT young people and these procedures provide much needed support and direction for those schools.

All schools are required to immediately commence the development of new procures with a new formal anti-bullying policy required to be in place by the second term of the 2013/14 school year at the latest.

The new anti-bullying procedures from the Department of Education can be viewed in full here.

Read: Time to act on bullying before tragedy hits primary schools, says expert >

Read: Ruairí Quinn: Even conservative groups know homophobic bullying is a problem >

Poll: Should schools be responsible for tackling cyber bullying? >

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Rónán Duffy

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