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Parents will be expected to play a major role in a government plan to tackle online and other forms of bullying, to be revealed later this week.
A national anti-bullying website will account for some of the €500,000 budget for Education Minister Ruairi Quinn’s plan, telling parents how to detect if their children are involved in, or are victims of bullying and cyberbullying.
“Schools are a generally safe place in terms of cyberbullying, because the majority of students don’t have access to their laptops, or their computers, or their phones, during school hours,” said the minister’s spokeswoman.
“Cyberbullying is happening outside school and at home and parents are a key audience. A national anti- bullying website will be a one-stop shop for all groups like students, parents, and teachers, and other people who work with young people like youth services.”
The plan comes on the back of months of consultation by a group of civil servants from Mr Quinn’s and other departments, following a public forum on bullying in schools last May.
Mr Quinn said the group had examined the dimensions bullying has taken on, such as homophobic bullying that was not recognised 10 or 15 years ago. “And now, of course, the horrible reality of cyber- bullying. You could escape from school and escape the bullies, but now you can’t,” said Mr Quinn.
“The high-profile cases are the ones that get the notice but an awful lot of young people are repressed right through their second- level school experience because of bullying, they never achieve their full potential because of it.”
Another recommendation will be that schools keep a logbook to record incidents of bullying, so boards of management can keep track and take action. The plan refers to a Swedish campaign where bullying incidents were reduced by 30% on foot of a similar reporting system.
“All schools will differ in terms of the amount and the type of bullying they have. If a school has a particularly high level of one form of bullying, for example homophobic bullying, it would become clear and they should put initiatives in place to target it,” the spokeswoman said.
She said that improved reporting systems are proven to work elsewhere and, while many schools already have similar programmes, it is not intended to add to administration work for schools.
The plan is expected to be launched by Mr Quinn on Thursday, but the Government will be opposing a Sinn Féin bill this week that would make it mandatory for schools to adopt and follow strict policies on bullying.
The Dáil will debate the bill tonight and tomorrow night, but Mr Quinn’s spokeswoman said it is flawed and the department’s plan will address the issues.