Policies allowing for more input from students, as well as mechanisms to allow victims to report incidents on the school website or in the classroom, are being urged in the new report.
Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan yesterday launched the details of a consultation with more than 300 children and young people between 10 and 17 from Carlow, Dublin, Donegal, Limerick, Mayo, Monaghan, and Wexford on the issue of bullying.
Contributors included young people in care, those with physical disabilities, and LGBT young people.
The report comes a week after Donegal schoolgirl Erin Gallagher took her own life after being targeted by bullies online.
The report states that bullying in schools is a “persistent problem” and that the issue is also raised regularly by children to the ombudsman’s office.
According to the report, there are at least 7,000 primary school and 3,700 secondary school students “who find it difficult to go to school every day as a result of being bullied frequently”. Another 24% of primary school students and 14% of secondary school students have experienced bullying to a lesser extent.
The participants stressed that all members of the school community should have the opportunity to participate in developing their school’s plan to deal with bullying.
According to the students, the consequences for bullies and the supports in place to help them deal with their behaviour should be set out in schools’ anti-bullying policies. Participants felt suspension or expulsion for bullies was “ineffective”, as it does not address the person’s behaviour.
Children also stressed the importance of raising awareness of bullying within schools, with dedicated assembly sessions outlining anti-bullying policy and discussions, and workshops to reinforce the message.
“Several young people suggested that ‘there is no point’ in a school having an anti-bullying policy if it is not put into practice effectively,” the report says.
The need to recognise and focus on different types of bullying, including homophobic, racial, and cyber- bullying, was also stressed with supports being in place for those being bullied.
The report suggests that schools establish a culture where speaking up is encouraged rather than being seen as “ratting”.
In the report, Ms Logan writes: “On average, over 40% of complaints made to my office annually relate to education and bullying is consistently among the five issues raised most frequently in education-related complaints.”
She said bullying was often hidden and that many young people said incidents could be dealt with through restorative measures.
* Read the full report on www.oco.ie.
* Read more here