herald

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Father of tragic Ciara welcomes €500k bully plan

TEACHERS will have to keep a record of bullying incidents from the start of the next school year in September, as part of the Government's new anti-bullying strategy.

PARENTS will also be given training courses to help spot if their child is being cyberbullied.

The new strategy kicks off with a media information campaign aimed specifically at teenagers on February 5, which is Safer Internet Day.

School inspectors will check the anti-bullying policies of the schools and a national anti-bullying website is being set up to inform parents and students.

A particular emphasis will be placed on tackling homophobic bullying and harassment through social media sites under the guidelines.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is basing the strategy on the key recommendations from the new national action plan on bullying, which has been given €500,000 in dedicated funding this year.

In announcing the details Mr Quinn said it was a "sad reality" that the suicides of some young people had been connected to bullying and cyberbullying.

It was also his department's intention to provide training courses to help parents not familiar with cyberbullying.

Exposed

"They grew up at a time when mobile phones and other electronic media simply were not part of their teenage experience. Unless they are exposed to this, they won't be aware of the potential for cyberbullying that is out there," he added.

The new plan has been welcomed by the father of Ciara Pugsley (15), from Dromahair in Co Leitrim, who died by suicide last year after being bullied online.

Jonathan Pugsley said it was a very positive step that the Government realised something had to be done.

"The longer we leave it, the more people are going to be hurt by bullying," he said.

The new strategy also follows the suicide of Donegal sisters Erin (13) and Shannon Gallagher (15) within six weeks of each other just before Christmas. It later emerged that Erin had been subjected to an aggressive bullying campaign.

In November, 12-year-old Lara Burns from Kilcock in Co Kildare, was also found dead by suicide in horse stables at her home.

The new national anti-bullying website will contain information about the controversial site Ask.FM that allows users to post comments and direct statements anonymously to other users.

Malicious

It will also explain the different types of bullying, which ranges from violence to malicious gossip to deliberate exclusion of children from groups.

All schools will have to include new anti-bullying guidelines in their codes of practice from September.

The National Anti-Bullying Coalition's president Monica Monaghan has expressed concern about the lack of clear timelines for many measures in the action plan.

"I'd be concerned about the implementation because the Department of Education doesn't have the best record on combating bullying," she said.

hnews@herald.ie

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