Sinn Féin anti-bullying bill before Dáil
Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD, will propose a bill to combat bullying in schools in the Dáil this evening.
Speaking of the bill, he said:
“I am calling on the government and opposition parties to support this Bill which would provide legislation so that there are clearly defined procedures in place to help teachers and school boards of management better manage the issue of bullying in schools.
“The fundamental ethos of it is the safeguarding of children and assisting our already hard-working principals and teachers in undertaking this important work. It is an issue which transcends party politics, and is of first rate importance to every parent and educator in the country.
“Should the legal reform at the core of this Bill be implemented, the government must also continue to introduce measures to resource and assist schools in preventative practice. That is why we have included a section whereby the Minister for Education would review the existing mandatory guidelines on a two-year basis. Thirty years’ experience worldwide, and nearly two decades of research and piloting in Ireland, could easily be drawn upon further.
“Indeed, the home-grown ‘Erris Anti-Bullying Initiative’ marked a brand-new phase in programme design - the ‘whole school / community development’ approach - and has been effectively and successfully implemented.
This week’s announcement by the minister that schools will have to keep a formal record of bullying incidents and that patterns of bullying will be tracked and schools will be obliged to react is a welcome, if long overdue development. The notion of mandatory reporting and plans to circulate a report template announced is a step in the right direction, and has been linked to a similar successful procedure in Sweden. It is also a constituent part of the school’s anti-bullying plan in the Norwegian ‘Zero’ programme, which, like the afore-mentioned home-grown ‘Erris Anti-Bullying Initiative’, has a far wider-reaching set of resources and procedures.
In 2002, in his foreword to the World Health Organisation’s World Report on Violence and Health, Nelson Mandela said, ‘The twentieth century will be remembered as a century marked by violence, [but] violence can be prevented. Violent cultures can be turned round. Governments, communities and individuals can make a difference. We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in society – a life free from violence and fear. We must address the roots of violence. Only then will we transform the past century’s legacy from a crushing burden into a cautionary lesson’.
We need to act now and strengthen the laws so schools are better equipped to deal with bullying and in so doing, we will have provided enhanced protection for this and future generations of teachers and children.