Schools will be required to have education and prevention strategies for cyberbullying
The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D., has today published new anti-bullying procedures to be adopted and implemented by all 4,000 primary and post primary schools. The New Procedures and the associated Department Circular 0045/13 are now published on the Department's Website.
These procedures have been developed following consultation with the relevant education partners and replace guidelines that were issued to schools in 1993. These procedures have resulted from a review of the 1993 guidelines and the implementation of the Action Plan on Bullying that was published in January 2013.
The new procedures require that the prevention of bullying must be an integral part of a school’s anti-bullying policy. Minister Quinn said “he was pleased to note the strong focus in the procedures on education and prevention strategies to deal with bullying behaviour including, in particular, cyberbullying and identity based bullying such as homophobic and transphobic bullying”.
Each school must now develop its anti-bullying policy in accordance with the procedures. The policy must be developed in consultation with parents, students, and all school staff, and aim to create a positive school culture and climate that is inclusive and welcoming of difference.
Key elements of the procedures are:
· A strong emphasis on prevention of bullying behaviour through the fostering and
development of a positive school culture and climate that is based on inclusivity and respect
· A school-wide approach to preventing and tackling bullying behaviour
· A requirement that all schools must adhere to the standardised policy template for
developing their anti-bullying policy
· Greater transparency for parents and pupils through the requirement for schools to publish their anti-bullying policy on the school’s website and give it to the parents association
· Making clear that the definition of bullying includes cyber-bullying and identity based bullying (such as homophobic and racist bullying)
· Practical tips for building a positive school culture and climate that is based on inclusivity and respect
· Clear procedures for investigating, recording and dealing with bullying. The procedures emphasise that the primary aim in investigating and dealing with bullying is to resolve any issues and restore as far as practicable the relationships of the parties involved (rather than to apportion blame)
· Oversight arrangements that involve the School Principal reporting regularly to the Board of Management and a requirement for the Board to do an annual review of the school’s anti- bullying policy and its implementation. Confirmation that the annual review was done must be provided to the parents association and published on the school website.
All schools are required to immediately commence the necessary arrangements for developing and formally adopting an anti-bullying policy that fully complies with the requirements of the new procedures. This is expected to be completed by each school as early as possible in the 2013/14 school year but in any event by no later than the end of the second term of the 2013/14 school year.
Minister Quinn said that “the procedures give a great opportunity to reinvigorate and strengthen our approach to preventing and tackling bullying in schools”. He went on to say that the procedures are written in a user-friendly manner and focus in a very practical way on what schools must do to prevent and deal with bullying. The key is to get the basics right across all 4,000 schools. Many schools already do this well and the new procedures will underpin and improve what they already do. For those schools that are not as good at dealing with bullying the new procedures provide a bullying policy template and practical guidance and tips so that they are clear on what they have to do. Arising from the commitments in the Action Plan on Bullying, the Department’s Inspectorate will be placing a stronger focus on the actions schools take to create a positive school culture and to prevent and tackle bullying."
Minister Quinn thanked the various education partners for their input into the new procedures. He also acknowledged the lead role of Teresa McNeill, Assistant Principal in his Department who worked closely with the education partners in the development of these procedures.
Notes for Editors
The new procedures are designed to give direction and guidance to school authorities and school personnel in preventing and tackling school-based bullying behaviour amongst its pupils. The procedures will also help to deal with any negative impact of bullying behaviour within school that occurs elsewhere.
These procedures apply to all recognised primary and post-primary schools and to centres for education (as defined in the Education Act 1998) that are attended by pupils under the age of 18 years. Where a school caters for vulnerable adults these procedures also apply to those adult learners. School authorities and school personnel are required to adhere to these procedures in dealing with allegations and incidents of bullying.
The new procedures define bullying as unwanted negative behaviour, verbal, psychological or physical conducted by an individual or group against another person (or persons) and which is repeated over time. These procedures make clear that this definition includes cyber-bullying and identity-based bullying (such as homophobic bullying and racist bullying).