Plan on bullying 'a significant advance'

Wed, Jan 23, 2013, 00:00

A plan to deal with bullying is to be published by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn tomorrow.

He told Independent TD Mick Wallace that an anti-bullying working group had finalised a plan which represented a significant document.

“It is not the final answer, and I do not know if there will ever be a final answer to the problem.

“Nevertheless, it is a significant advance on what was done before and the guidelines have not been revised in the past 20 years.”

Mr Quinn said homophobic bullying would be addressed, adding there was now an understanding that cyberbullying was a 24/7 nightmare for some people. Bullying in the school yard could at least be escaped.

Sinn Féin last night moved a Private Members’ Bill to introduce mandatory anti-bullying policies in schools.

Party education spokesman Jonathan O’Brien said the Education (Welfare) (Amendment) (No 2) Bill 2012, offered an updated definition of bullying and included references to cyber-bullying and some of the vulnerable at-risk groups.

“The onus of responsibility is placed on the board of management, and the elected officer of that board, to adopt and implement an anti-bullying policy in every recognised school.”

Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said parents and schools needed to encourage and facilitate children and adolescents to step forward and speak out if they were experiencing problems.

“If there is any hint that speaking out is in any way discouraged or made difficult, if there is any prospect that a school would try to minimise, ignore or conceal the reality of bullying, then the victims are condemned to silent misery and the culprits are facilitated.”

Minister of State for Health Alex White said the Bill was well-intentioned but flawed.

“The approach taken whereby one individual is tasked with responsibility for implementation of the school bullying measures is, I have to say, entirely inconsistent with both international and national best practice,” he said.