Secondary school suspends 28 pupils for cyberbullying on Facebook

A secondary school has suspended 28 students over Facebook cyberbullying.

The students at Coláiste Chíaráin in Croom, Co Limerick, admitted to “liking” a Facebook post which made explicit references to a number of people in the school community.

School principal Noel Malone said: “There were a number of victims, and one very particular case of cyberbullying, in my view.

“It was a very unpleasant and difficult situation for the school to find itself in. This was gross invasion of the personal lives of members of our school community.”

Most of the students were suspended last Tuesday and Wednesday, and a number who were on work experience were suspended yesterday and today.

Mr Malone hit out at the attitude of Facebook, which refused the school’s written request to remove the post.

He said the school was unaware who created the Facebook posting.

“The site was a violation of the privacy of members of the school community, and when it was brought to our attention we investigated and found it breached our acceptable usage policy and anti-bullying policy,” said Mr Malone.

“We were able to identify students in the school who supported it by stating they liked what was on it. It showed images of the school and there was definitely an issue of privacy and cyberbullying. I was very shocked.”

Mr Malone said school management had talked to students about what they were involved in, pointing out it was something very hurtful for people in the school community.

“We pointed out the great dangers. I have no doubt there was no malice on behalf of the students. We have a very strong policy in this area. It is to the credit of the students that they wrote on the website they wanted it taken down.

“Unfortunately, these 28 made a wrong decision. We wrote to all the parents, and the vast majority of them have supported our action.

“The student council in the school has also backed the decision and said we were sending out the right message. We don’t allow Facebook or social media into the school. They are not accessible in the school and we don’t know who put up this site.”

Mr Malone said when 28 people “liked” a post, this could be seen by potentially thousands of their Facebook contacts, which was as far as you could get in bullying.

Coláiste Chíaráin, which has 900 male and female students, was the first secondary school to replace books with laptops, with the help of Dell.

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