Cyber-bullying concerns Quinn

 

Teachers are increasingly the victims of cyber-bullying and some have been forced to hide their sexual orientation in schools, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has said.

The Minister refused to comment on the decision by Oatlands College, Dublin to expel four students after they posted abusive remarks about their teachers on Facebook.

But he said the publicity the case attracted underlined the growing problem of bullying on social network sites.

Mr Quinn was speaking at the opening of a new anti-bullying forum which will explore ways to tackle the problem of bullying in schools. He pointed out how the current

Department guidelines on bullying had been in place since 1994 before the internet age.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald said we are seeing how social media sites “have regrettably become a forum for hatred and an avenue for the viral spread of personal abuse. We have seen how lives have been destroyed by cyber bullying”.

The forum - which will also examine homophobic and other forms of bullying - will provide a “roadmap’’ for the future, according to Mr Quinn.

More than 100 stakeholders including representatives of student, parent and school management groups, teacher unions, support groups for victims of bullying, rights activists and bullying experts are attending today’s forum.

Opening the forum, Mr Quinn said: “Bullying is a problem which I take very seriously. Bullying in school can ruin a young person’s enjoyment of some of the most important years of their life. In extreme situations it can also, tragically, lead to a young person taking their own life.

“It is therefore my fervent hope that today’s forum will provide us with the basis on which to develop a roadmap on how best to tackle all forms of bullying in our schools.”

He added: “I am very anxious that the forum focuses on identifying the practical steps and recommendations that could be taken in the short term to improve how schools approach and tackle bullying.”

The agenda for the forum sees presentations from a variety of key interest groups. There is also the opportunity for broad discussion from all attendees in the afternoon session.

Alongside the forum, Mir Quinn has established a working group on tackling bullying, including homophobic bullying, cyber-bullying and racist bullying. The outcomes and recommendations from the forum’s work will assist the working group in its deliberations.

The working group is made up of representatives from the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and will also draw upon the expertise of a range of organisations during the course of its work.

The first phase of this will concentrate on homophobic bullying as per the commitment in the Programme for Government. The working group will also be reviewing the 1993 Department of Education and Skills guidelines on countering bullying in schools in order to update them to reflect the realities of modern communication technology and other contemporary issues.

Members of the public can make submissions by email to the Department at antibullying@education.gov.ie up to June 29th. Details of the forum and the format for submissions are available on the Department's website www.education.ie.