Call for Government to support schools to deal with bullying

Prioritise high physical and mental costs to victims and to health system, says expert

The Government must make resources available to help counter increasing levels of bullying in schools, according to a leading commentator on cyber and "traditional" bullying in schools.

It needs to prioritise the issue because of the high physical and mental costs to victims and to the health system, she said.

"We have a problem that is widespread and it looks like the level of bullying is increasing," said Prof Mona O'Moore, founding director of the anti-bullying centre at Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City University.

“We need greater knowledge, the skills to deal with it, and to get people out of their apathetic mode and become more active citizens. We can’t sit and watch people bullied to death,” she said.


Prof O'Moore was speaking yesterday prior to the launch of Bullying in Irish Education which she co-edited with Dr Paul Stevens, who is based in the Department of Education and Skills. It contains studies by 20 experts who looked at bullies and bullying at all levels in Irish schools, from primary pupils up to school principals.

“The department needs to prioritise the area because of the high physical and mental costs. There is a cost here to children and indeed to adults,” she said. The department had been slow to force schools to take action, but we had come a long way and perhaps had “turned a corner” with the launch of an action plan last January by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn who, in September, released procedures for schools.

“They now have no excuse but to get on with it, but there are no resources in place to train teachers,” Prof O’Moore said. “It should be high up on its [the Department’s] agenda to see that its action plan is implemented. They should try to put as much resources into training as possible.”

Prof O’Moore has been studying the issue as it exists in Ireland since 1987. Her centre at Trinity opened in 1996 and immediately people started talking about being bullied at school and in the workplace.

The book narrows this down to the education system, butidentifies that bullying arises at all levels, from primary and post-primary through third-level. It occurs among students but also teachers and lecturers and school management, she said.

The various studies show that about a third of all school students are victims of or involved in traditional bullying. Cyber bullying, the use of mobile phones and other technology to bully someone, is also widespread with one in five of young people at all school levels either victims or bullies.

“Tellingly, the vast majority of students who are involved in cyber bullying are also involved in traditional bullying,” Prof O’Moore said. But those at the receiving end of traditional bullying can become cyber bullies and vice versa.

Data from the recent Growing Up in Ireland report indicated that 40 per cert of nine-year-olds felt they were bullied. Prof O'Moore sais that it is how one felt that impacted psychologically.

The book is published by Cork University Press at €39.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former Science Editor.