Countering Bullying Behaviour
Anti- Bullying Procedures
In September 2013, the DES published Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools, and the accompanying Circular 45/2013.
The Procedures set out the approach which must be taken by schools in preventing and dealing with bullying behaviour in schools. Schools are obliged to formally adopt and implement an anti-bullying policy that fully complies with the requirements of these procedures. A template anti-bullying policy which must be used by all schools for this purpose is provided in Appendix 1 of the Procedures. The policy must be made available to the school community.
Bullying is defined as unwanted negative behaviour, verbal, psychological or physical conducted by an individual or group against another person (or persons) and which is repeated over time. The procedures make clear that this definition includes cyber-bullying and identity-based bullying (such as homophobic bullying and racist bullying.
The procedures recognise that a cornerstone in the prevention of bullying is a positive school culture and climate that is welcoming of difference and diversity and is based on inclusivity and respect. The importance of a school-wide (management, staff, pupils and parents) approach is also emphasised.
The prevention of bullying must be an integral part of a school’s anti-bullying policy. A school’s anti-bullying policy must also set out the school’s procedures for investigating and dealing with bullying and the school’s procedures for the formal noting and recording of bullying behaviour. The school’s procedures must be consistent with the guidance and direction set out in this document. The procedures emphasise that the primary aim in investigating and dealing with bullying is to resolve any issues and restore as far as is practicable the relationships of the parties involved (rather than to apportion blame).
In any case where it has been determined by a teacher that bullying behaviour has occurred the parents of the parties involved should be contacted at an early stage to inform them of the matter and explain the actions being taken (by reference to the school policy).
The teacher must keep appropriate written records which will assist his/her efforts to resolve the issues and restore, as far as is practicable, the relationships of the parties involved. In cases where he/she considers that the bullying behaviour has not been adequately and appropriately addressed within 20 school days after he/she has determined that bullying behaviour occurred; or where the school has decided as part of its anti-bullying policy that in certain circumstances bullying behaviour must be recorded and reported, the relevant teacher must record the bullying behaviour in the standardised recording template at Appendix 3 of the Procedures (and a copy must be provided to the Principal or Deputy Principal as applicable).
The procedures include oversight arrangements which require that, at least once in every school term, the Principal will provide a report to the Board of Management setting out the overall number of bullying cases reported (by means of the bullying recording template in Appendix 3) to the Principal or Deputy Principal since the previous report to the Board and confirmation that all of these cases have been, or are being, dealt with in accordance with the school’s anti-bullying policy and the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary schools.
The Board of Management must undertake an annual review of the school’s anti-bullying policy and its implementation by the school.
Dealing with Allegations of Bullying Behaviour
The primary aim for the relevant teacher in investigating and dealing with bullying is to resolve any issues and to restore, as far as is practicable, the relationships of the parties involved (rather than to apportion blame).
In investigating and dealing with bullying, the teacher will exercise his/her professional judgement to determine whether bullying has occurred and how best the situation might be resolved.
All reports, including anonymous reports of bullying must be investigated and dealt with by the relevant teacher. In that way pupils will gain confidence in ‘telling’.
The procedures state that parents and pupils are required to co-operate with any investigation and assist the school in resolving any issues and restoring, as far as is practicable, the relationships of the parties involved as quickly as possible;
Teachers should take a calm, unemotional problem-solving approach when dealing with incidents of alleged bullying behaviour reported by pupils, staff or parents. Incidents are generally best investigated outside the classroom situation to ensure the privacy of all involved. All interviews should be conducted with sensitivity and with due regard to the rights of all pupils concerned. Pupils who are not directly involved can also provide very useful information in this way.
When analysing incidents of bullying behaviour, the relevant teacher should seek answers to questions of what, where, when, who and why. This should be done in a calm manner, setting an example in dealing effectively with a conflict in a non-aggressive manner. It may be appropriate or helpful to ask those involved to write down their account of the incident(s).
If a group is involved, each member should be interviewed individually at first. Thereafter, all those involved should be met as a group. At the group meeting, each member should be asked for his/her account of what happened to ensure that everyone in the group is clear about each other’s statements. Each member of a group should be supported through the possible pressures that they may face them from the other members of the group after interview by the teacher.
In cases where it has been determined by the relevant teacher that bullying behaviour has occurred, the parents of the parties involved should be contacted at an early stage to inform them of the matter and explain the actions being taken (by reference to the school policy). The school should give parents an opportunity of discussing ways in which they can reinforce or support the actions being taken by the school and the supports for their pupils;
Where the relevant teacher has determined that a pupil has been engaged in bullying behaviour, it should be made clear to him/her how he/she is in breach of the school’s anti-bullying policy and efforts should be made to try to get him/her to see the situation from the perspective of the pupil being bullied. It must also be made clear to all involved (each set of pupils and parents) that in any situation where disciplinary sanctions are required, this is a private matter between the pupil being disciplined, his or her parents and the school.
See Section 6.8 of the Procedures for further details.
Updated July 2014