Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien has published a Bill in the Oireachtas to provide a legal footing to the existing guidelines that are used by schools when addressing incidents of bullying.
The Cork North Central TD believes that bullying in schools is a serious and growing problem that greatly impacts on the mental well-being and physical health of pupils and teachers alike. He is calling on the government to support the Sinn Féin Bill that if enacted will greatly strengthen the existing legislation and help schools better deal with the issue.
Deputy O'Brien said;
“Bullying is a complex and difficult problem that can manifest itself in many different ways and inflict long lasting scars on its victims. At its worst, the physical and psychological damage to an individual can, as we have sadly seen in recent months, be a significant factor that leads to self-harm and/or death by suicide.
“We can no longer therefore, pay lip service to what is happening and we need to strengthen the laws so schools are better equipped to deal with this issue.
“The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 in order to provide for binding, mandatory measures that will have to be adhered to by the boards of management of each school in order to ensure that the welfare of children and teachers are adequately safeguarded when reported incidents of bullying occur.
“It also attempts to provide a clear definition of bullying and seeks to address the different forms it can take as well as the motivations that influence this type of behaviour. By placing a greater onus of responsibility on school boards of management, through the mandatory implementation of recognised ‘anti-bullying’ policies, it will establish a standardised code of practice that must be adhered too.
“Sinn Féin has introduced this Bill in the hope that the Minister for Education will enshrine in legislation the existing mandatory guidelines which also need to be reviewed regularly and enhanced. This is necessary if we are to better deal with bullying including the growing incidents of online abuse resulting from the popularity of social media websites.
“I hope all of the political parties who sit in the Dáil, and who have on many occasions made clear their concerns about the impact of bullying on society will support this Bill which will if passed will provided enhanced protection for school children and teaching staff.”