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Column: Ireland has a bullying crisis. Here’s what my school did about it.

Bullying is in the spotlight again after a series of tragedies. Eimhear Lynch, 16, describes how she and her friends took action.

Eimhear Lynch

Eimhear Lynch is a 16-year-old girl from County Tipperary who decided with her friends that they weren’t going to sit around and do nothing about the bullying crisis in Ireland – they were going to take action. She writes:

THIS YEAR I was in a summer camp in Canada, as part of the SOAR organisation, for which I am a member. It is all about promoting self-confidence and leadership skills in young people. A guy called Travis Price came to talk to us. He told us that while he was in school a young boy came in one day wearing a pink t-shirt and he got bullied for it. That evening after school Travis and his friends went and bought pinks t-shirts for all the boys in their year, the next day all the boys came in to show the bullies that no one should think that they have the right to bully other people. I was so moved by this story that I decided to organise a Pink Day in our school.

My school had never done anything like that, actually my school never had an anti-bullying policy, only the last couple of weeks has there been one implemented. The first thing we did was go to the teachers with the idea and they were so supportive of having something like this in our school, so it went from there. The idea is that it is more student led, it is not about the teachers explaining to the kids about the effects of bullying or how to deal with it, it is a campaign led by students, for students, so that we can all stick up for each other. It’s not about teachers talking down to the children – it is a youth led initiative that we want to go further. We want to try and get every school in Ireland to have a Pink Day.

Suicide

The issue of bullying has always been there, it has just been overlooked. People are bullied everyday in school and there are so many people that are so afraid to go to school. It wasn’t until these suicides started happening that people started to catch on that this is a serious issue. In a lot of schools it is simply not dealt with, it is not even on the curriculum. But the issue of suicide really shone a light onto it. People my age were so shocked when we heard of all the cases. It was so unexpected, but yet everyone knew in the background that something like this was always going to happen.

I think it is an issue especially with Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Messenger – all those sites. Bullying really needs to be dealt with in schools so that from an early age people are taught what’s right, what’s not right, how you are meant to treat one another and who you can go and talk to and ask for help. People often think they are going to be made fun of if they say they are being bullied. Bullying can be subtle too – it’s not all about people being beaten up. It can be someone that is excluding you, talking about you behind your back or talking about you on Facebook – it is not always out on show.

Pink Day

When we said we wanted a Pink Day in our school, everyone got behind the initiative – it was great. The whole school wore pink that day. We went down and talked to the first years about bullying, but really the big thing is that our school brought in an anti-bullying policy and everyone really took to it – everyone was behind the idea. We wanted to start with our school and then be the driving force behind bringing it to other schools.

We have a school mentoring scheme in our school now and it works quite well. But you can notice a difference in our school, the younger kids seem to be able to come and talk to us if there are any issues. The younger students were probably one of the biggest groups to participate in the Pink Day. We would like to see the bigger organisations come on board with us and the Department of Education. We need to get the message out there. We are going around schools in our area to get them to join us, but we hope to have a national day, where we could have discussions and talks about bullying. It is about us doing something about this crisis, instead of sitting back and saying ‘wasn’t that terrible’ – it’s time we did something about it.

We hope that it puts the conversation out there – I think that because of the suicides and the Pink Day, people are definitely on the look out for bullying or wondering is there anyway they can help if they know someone that is being bullied. Before people would say: ‘it’s not my business, I’m not getting involved.’ Now people realise the seriousness of it and what it can lead to.

We would love to have a National Pink Day where every school in Ireland wore pink for one day of the year, a day where people can stand up to bullying. Our school is definitely going to do it every year, but we need a nationwide day next year.

Eimhear Lynch is one of the organisers of the Pink Day initiative. She is from Ballina, County Tipperary and attends St Anne’s Community College, Killaloe.

For more information about how you can get involved in organising a Pink Day at your school or to help bring this campaign nationwide please contact pinkdayinitiative@gmail.com or visit the Pink Day Initiative Facebook page.

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Eimhear Lynch

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