All teachers must keep records of bullying cases
ALL teachers will have to keep log books recording individual cases of bullying under new Government plans to tackle the "scourge" of Ireland's schools.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said recent suicides among young victims of bullying highlighted a need for a comprehensive action plan.
He said schools need to take action and that policy alone is no longer enough.
"For some children, bullying is a scourge that can violate these nurturing environments and in the process obliterate their happiness," Mr Quinn said.
All teachers by this September will be required to follow a template outlined by the Government for recording incidents of bullying at primary and secondary levels.
Teachers will receive training under the new 12-point Action Plan on Bullying to help them identify cases in the classroom.
"You could actually measure what the incidents were and taking professional advice, decide whether the problem was above normal, or required a particular kind of response," Mr Quinn said.
"But if it's not recorded, it's not there."
The action plan also includes a pledge to tackle homophobic bullying and to ensure teachers recognise when a child might be targeted based on his or her sexuality.
Ireland's national LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youth service BeLonG To hailed the commitment as a breakthrough.
Executive director Michael Barron said: "This action plan is a critical breakthrough and marks a historic recognition by government that homophobic and transphobic bullying are urgent issues that have serious impacts on young people's mental health."
Mr Quinn warned that not all bullying occurs in the classroom and that cyber bullying had to be addressed too.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said the fact children can be targeted on their mobile phones and home computers made it just as important for parents to be vigilant at home.
"Bullying is not a rite of passage, it is not a bad patch through which children emerge strengthened, it's not a normal part of growing up," Ms Fitzgerald said.
"It is an instrument for some children of destruction. No more, no less. It must and it will be challenged."
Teenagers Ciara Pugsley, 15, from Leitrim, and 13-year-old Erin Gallagher, from Donegal, killed themselves late in 2012. It is understood both girls were being bullied online.
The Government has pledged 500,000 euro this year to implement its action plan - the first attempt of any Government to address bullying in 20 years.
Other actions in the plan, drawn up by a working group of education and children experts, will include a new national anti-bullying website.
On top of teacher training, support will be made available to parents and members of school boards of management.
The issue of cyber bullying - through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter - will be targeted as part of Safer Internet Day 2013.
Welcoming the plan, the National Parents Council Primary said while it may not fix the problem it will better equip teachers to identify different cases of bullying.
Chief executive Aine Lynch said it was important that all aspects of the action plan are implemented to ensure uniformity across all schools in tackling bullying.
"The Action Plan on Bullying shows the deep level of consideration the working group has given to all the different issues and illustrates well the working group's reasoning and decision-making process," she added.