Children consulted on bullying
Children’s ombudsman Emily Logan has consulted with 300 children around the country in efforts to try to influence developing policies on cyber-bullying.
Ms Logan’s office consulted with children between 13 and 17 years old in the hope the work might inform a working group established by Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn. The group is tasked with developing strategies to help schools manage bullying.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms Logan said the issues of prevention and intervention had featured very strongly in discussions with the children.
But she said it was interesting to note that children were sympathetic not only to the victims of bullying but also to the perpetrators.
They believed that children could bully others because of “issues that may be happening at home or in their community”.
Students had also suggested that parents and pupils rather than just principals and teachers be involved in implementing anti-bullying policies.
Ms Logan said schools also needed to be more inclusive. The children with whom she had met had felt that school councils were composed of nominated individuals, who might be the “more popular” students.
They felt that for such bodies to be more inclusive, all pupils needed to be involved.
The ombudsman’s office particularly spoke to children with disabilities, children in care, children with lesbian, gay, transsexual or transgender (LGBT) backgrounds because it had been hearing of problems with bullying.
“ It’s not that it’s any more prevalent but that children described that it’s more difficult to deal with, because of the underlying prejudice that exists,” she said.
Ms Logan said that while adults had been debating the issue of cyber-bullying, or online bullying, for a number of weeks, the children interviewed believed they needed more information.
“We assume that they know more than we do about these websites, but in fact they asked for a lot of information explaining what cyber-bullying is, what forms it can take.”
She said they wanted the adverse consequences of such bullying to be highlighted to other children and they had had “some very practical suggestions”.
This included special school assemblies at the beginning of the year, where the school principal would “make a statement of intent and be publicly clear that bullying won’t be tolerated in the school and how it will be dealt with”.
With regard to nominating an ‘anti-bullying officer’ in schools, Ms Logan said there was potential in such cases for people to see bullying as “one person’s responsibility rather than a shared responsibility”.
She believed it was “useful” to have a nominated person in a school, but it was important that teachers and principals were supported in dealing with the issue.
It was not an easy issue to deal with, because principals were faced with “one set of parents that are distraught because their child is a victim of bullying” and “another set of parents who are very angry because there has been an allegation against their child”.