Half of parents have complained to their child’s school about bullying, with experts calling for clear guidelines to help tackle what is becoming a growing problem.
The survey by the National Parents Council-Primary also found that after making the complaint, one in three parents were not happy with how it was handled.
The survey of almost 1,000 parents was carried out last month. Áine Lynch, chief executive of the National Parents Council-Primary, said the results were worrying.
“Nearly 30% said the procedure wasn’t followed, 36% said the procedure wasn’t right and 26% weren’t happy with the outcome,” she said.
Speaking at an anti-bullying forum at the Department of Education, Ms Lynch said there was a major need for the training of teachers, before and throughout their careers, in how to handle bullying complaints.
The forum also heard that making the reporting of bullying less taboo was key to addressing the problem.
Mark Caffrey, equality officer of the Irish Second-level Students’ Union, said a system being adopted in New Jersey was commendable, where all incidents of bullying must be reported to school authorities within a day and an investigation must be set up within 10 days.
However, he said, Ireland should go a step further and make it mandatory for students to report repeated mistreatment of their fellow students, with mild punishment up to a short suspension in some rare circumstances.
“We have to tell people it’s not bad to tell the truth and admit that something is going on. We have to get people to see that bullying, or standing by and letting it happen, is wrong,” said Mr Caffrey.
Tim Geraghty of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals said a range of pastoral supports had been developed in second-level schools, but many were being undermined by staffing cuts.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said schools had done their best in recent years to tackle bullying, but class sizes, outdated guidelines, and the removal of management posts in schools were problems the Government needed to tackle.
The issues raised at the forum will inform a working group set up by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to set out new ways for schools to deal with the problem for which Department of Education guidelines were last updated in 1993.
Bullying is estimated to affect at least one-in-four school students, but Mr Quinn said the need to revise how schools dealt with the problem was particularly needed in response to the rapidly changing methods of bullying enabled by technology and social networking.
The mother of a distressed nine-year-old boy asked him to write down what was happening at school:
“He pushes me over, calls me fucking idiot, son of a bitch, retard, queer, handicap, fuck you, fuck off, c***, dick, asshole, fuck you and all your family too, gayboy, motherfucker.
“Ripped my shirt, I was afraid to show my mum. Caught me by the neck, slammed my head against a pebble wall and kicked me a few times.
“Punched me across the jaw and tripped me up.
“He shoves me all the time, pushes and kicks me all the time in the yard. He’s bigger than me and he knows it.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved