Students must be given a stronger role in designing school policies about bullying, say young leaders at a school where teenagers are taking the lead to address the issue.
The student council at Drimnagh Castle, an all-boys’ secondary school in Walkinstown on Dublin’s southside, was prompted to take action on the issue by links between cyber-bullying and the deaths, by suicide, of a number of Irish teenagers in recent months.
In a video to promote their bullying awareness week, they show images relating to the stories of the teens involved and remind viewers that social networking sites were seen to play a big part.
As events kicked off at the school yesterday, student council secretary Daniel Murphy said young people will take anti-bullying policies more seriously if they were involved in designing them.
“The younger students, in particular, look up to us as their role models and so they will relate more to policies if their own peers have a say in making them,” he said.
The student council is working with the school board and the parents’ council at Drimnagh Castle to revise policies on bullying, with a particular focus on cyber-bullying.
“I think it’s a big problem with the younger teenagers from sixth class upwards, because so much of their spare time is spent on computers. They are more likely to put up details about their daily lives without realising the consequences,” said Daniel.
He said the young ages of those who died recently after reportedly being cyber-bullied shows how much young people are being affected, even as young as 12.
“We also want to liaise with parents, to make sure they know about the consequences. It’s hard to define how much schools should get involved if it’s happening outside school, but nine times out of 10, bullying starts during the school day and is carried on afterwards so it’s important schools are seen to take a role,” he said.
A focus of the Drimnagh Castle student council is on peer education, getting students directly involved and working in teams, as they might talk more to each other about their problems.
“Teenagers find it very intimidating to talk to adults about their problems. We have set up an email account that students can mail if they have been victims of bullying, to talk to the student council about their problem,” Daniel said.
The council officers will help students in confidence but said they will also make sure school management are made aware of any issues that need to be dealt with.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has said many schools pay lip service to considering students’ views and he intends to ensure all 730 second level schools have an elected student council that will play a full role in forming policies on issues affecting them.
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