herald

Sunday 23 November 2014

Cyber bullies targeted in tough school crackdown

MEASURES to tackle cyber bullying in all Irish schools and colleges are to be unveiled in the wake of a number of high-profile incidents.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn will order the policies following a detailed study of bullying by a special department working group.

The strict anti-bullying policies are expected to include greater social media information, reporting procedures for abuse, enhanced support systems for victims and their families as well as education as to the consequences of bullying.

Tragic

Cyber bullying has now been linked to the death of three Irish teens, two in Donegal and one in Leitrim, last year.

Ciara Pugsley (12) took her own life last September, while in October 13-year-old Erin Gallagher died in tragic circumstances. Her sister Shannon (15) ended her life in December.

Cyber bullying has also been blamed for the suicide of Junior Minister Shane McEntee, who was targeted on social media sites over Budget cuts.

His brother, Gerry, described those who launched the anonymous attacks against his brother as "faceless cowards ... shame on you".

Last week, the Herald revealed that a 16-year-old Cork girl was deliberately targeted on a Facebook page for a vile bullying campaign which included sick sexual references.

The cyber abuse continued despite her repeated pleas for the messages to be removed. Her school had to intervene and demand that Facebook shutdown the page.

Just 24 hours later, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dr Paul Colton, ended his Twitter account after what he described as "a depressing" attacks by anonymous internet 'trolls'. The cyber messages, details of which have not been released, are understood to have included scathing attacks against the Christian churches in Ireland.

Those tragedies followed the cases of Cork schoolgirl Leanne Wolfe (18) and Clare teen Phoebe Prince (15).

Leanne Wolfe took her own life in 2007 after being subjected to years of vicious bullying -- including vile abuse over her mobile phone.

Phoebe Prince (15) hanged herself in January 2010 in South Hadley, Massachusetts in the US after she was targeted for bullying by classmates including vicious social network comments.

Discussing

Next Friday, a major conference on bullying will be hosted in Cork by Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly. The conference, which is open to teachers, parents, social workers, health care officials and youth groups, will be staged in the Nemo Rangers GAA complex on the South Douglas Road, Cork at 9.30am.

A major element of the event will be discussing ways in which internet service providers can take a greater role in identifying and removing abusive content.

hnews@herald.ie

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