The problem of students bullying teachers is another issue to be tackled in schools, according to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.
He was commenting after it emerged that four fifth-year students have been expelled from a Dublin secondary school for running a Facebook page that carried malicious comments about at least two teachers, including remarks of a sexual nature.
One of the students expelled from Oatlands College in Stillorgan is a son of independent Wexford TD Mick Wallace.
When contacted yesterday by the Irish Examiner, the school did not make any comment. “It’s the policy of Oatlands College not to make any comment concerning any student in the college,” said deputy principal Caroline Garrett.
The Facebook page was open for less than 24 hours in mid-March, and more than 20 other students who hit the ‘Like’ button on the page served a Saturday detention after it was found by a staff member. The student who set it up and three others who were listed as administrators of the page were initially suspended for 20 school days.
However, following an investigation, they were expelled after a board meeting this week. Their parents can appeal the decision under a procedure open to them to refer the expulsions to a committee to be set up by the Department of Education.
Mr Quinn said the bullying of teachers is quite a problem, although he would not talk about the incident when asked by RTÉ News yesterday.
“I would say it is an unusual occurrence and obviously I can’t comment on the details of this particular case,” he said.
“The teacher unions and management bodies have indicated to me that in some cases this can be a two-way street and pressure on teachers can be enormous in some areas.”
The issue of cyberbullying was a significant topic at the Anti-Bullying Forum hosted by Mr Quinn’s department.
Mark Caffrey, the equality officer of the Irish Second-level Students’ Union, said the department needed to provide all schools with a clear policy on the use of social networking sites by students and staff.
“I believe the best way to reduce bullying of staff online is to have zero interaction between staff and students on sites like Facebook and Twitter that have anything to do with non-academic items.
“Students must be given advice about proper usage of sites, or reminded of how to act properly online.”
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