Photos to be banned by schools in bid to combat cyber-bullies
A CLAMPDOWN on the use of photographs by schools and students has been ordered in an effort to stamp out cyber-bullying.
The strict new guidelines will seek to ban students from taking photographs of other pupils or members of staff.
And teachers have been asked to avoid connecting directly with students on online sites such as Facebook.
They have also been told to protect their tweets on Twitter to ensure that the comments can be seen only by permitted users.
Many teachers now use Facebook and Twitter as educational tools, say school management agencies.
The new regulations come as controversy surrounding cyber-bullying continues to heighten in Irish schools.
The topic made national headlines in recent months after the deaths of Ciara Pugsley (15) and Erin Gallagher (13).
Ciara, from Co Leitrim, took her own life in September; Donegal student Erin Gallagher (13) killed herself in October.
The recent death of Lara Burns Gibbs in Kilcock, Co Kildare has also been linked to bullying, although sources close to her family maintain that they do not know why she took her own life.
The new measures from secondary school management come in a bid to combat online bullying, which is facilitated through social media websites, text and picture messaging, email, chat rooms and gaming sites.
The Joint Managerial Body (JMB) sent out the advice to its members schools last week, while other school management bodies are also taking action.
The guidelines on pictures taken in schools have been introduced in the hope that this will help clamp down on situations where pictures taken in the classroom, or elsewhere in the school, have been posted online inappropriately.
The JMB has stated that taking photos in schools will be banned with only certain exceptions.
JMB general secretary Ferdia Kelly says that most effective way of preventing bullying is through a whole-school approach.
The body has advised the 400 schools under its remit that the only exception to the new guidelines should be when the pictures are required for an official school project
"Connecting with students on social media sites can seem like an effective means of communication.
"However, this gives students potential to access personal information about teachers and the opportunity to target them with abusive behaviour," the JMB have said.
Last month Education Minister Ruairi Quinn set up an expert group working on new rules for schools to adopt to combat all forms of bullying.
The Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools recently advised its 93 schools to strengthen guidelines that punish students who have misused online data or social media.
The Irish Vocational Education Association, which represents 258 second-level schools, expects to have a set of procedures for dealing with cyber-bullying ready by the end of the year.