There has been a broad welcome for the Government’s new Action Plan on Bullying which was launched last week by Ministers Ruairi Quinn and Frances Fitzgerald and recommends the mandatory recording of bullying in schools as well as training for teachers, staff and parents.
The plan sets out 12 actions, which it hopes will help prevent and tackle bullying in primary and second level schools. According to the report, preventing and tackling bullying “requires support from parents and wider society and is not a problem schools can solve alone”. The report outlines that bullying is “not about just any kind of injury, nor just any negative impact. It involves a particular kind of harm. It is aimed at engendering a kind of helplessness, an inability to act, to do anything….” They said the impact of bullying includes the “loss of self-esteem, anxiety, stress, depression, difficulties with school work, reluctance to attend school, and, in extreme cases, self-harm and suicide.”
Minister Quinn has requested his officials to ensure that work on implementation of the plan begins immediately in consultation with teachers, parents and management bodies at first and second-level. He has ring-fenced €500,000 to support the implementation of the action plan.
Jonathan Pugsley, father of Ciara who took her own life last year after being a victim of cyber bullying had previously told the Leitrim Observer that €500,000 was not enough. He said more money needs to be provided to educate young people and parents on the dangers of the internet and how to use it properly. He was also seeking a change in legislation.
The Action Plan proposes 12 recommendations which includes support for a media campaign focused on cyber bullying, a new national anti-bullying website; mandatory recording of incidents of bullying in schools. Training for teachers, parents and school boards of management. The plan also recommends support for the Stand Up! Awareness Week Against Homophobic Bullying organised by BeLonG To Youth Services; revision of the Stay Safe Programme for primary schools which will include cyber bullying, the establishment of an Anti-Bullying Implementation Group and a new National Framework for Anti-Bullying.
The plan suggests that the Department of Education and Skills to engage with book publishers who produce materials for schools to address the issue of stereotyping, research to see other countries procedures to see if these could be used to improve the Irish system and the encouragement of social media and telecommunications companies and internet service providers to continue to work with State Agencies, NGOs, parents and young people to raise awareness of cyber bullying and how it can be dealt with.
At the launch, Minister Quinn said, “Bullying can have a devastating effect on our children and young people that can sometimes end in tragedy. Minister Fitzgerald noted that this Action Plan on Bullying is the first of its kind in Ireland.
Sligo Senator Susan O’Keefe welcomed the launch of the Action Plan on Bullying and Guidelines for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention for Post-Primary Schools. “As part of the action plan, I was delighted to see that different forms of bullying were given consideration, and that the ‘Stand Up! Awareness Week Against Homophobic Bullying’, organised by BeLonG To Youth Services, is to be given support by the department of Education and Skills.”
MEP Jim Higgins welcomed the plan but said, “€500,000 for the implementation of this action plan across all secondary & primary schools is simply not enough!”
The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) Equality Officer, Mark Caffrey said, ‘Bullying is something which we know affects our students hugely – around one quarter of students are likely to have experienced some form of bullying in the past couple of months, and I’m delighted that an action plan to tackle this head on has been launched today. Bullying is a serious problem, so it needs to be taken seriously.”