Phoebe father's impassioned plea to stop the school bullies
THE father of Phoebe Prince, the 15-year-old schoolgirl who tragically took her own life in the US after a prolonged bullying campaign, yesterday urged politicians here to back efforts to stop more young lives being lost in the same way.
Jim Jackman, former president of the National Parents Council, said a number of TDs and senators -- in particular Luke 'Ming' Flanagan and Gerald Nash -- were visibly moved by Jeremy Prince's impassioned plea to TDs and senators to urgently provide funds for a nationwide anti-bullying campaign.
Mr Prince called on the politicians to back 'Safe School' -- a new initiative that would see teachers tracking instances of bullying on a special computer.
He made his emotionally charged address to about 40 Oireachtas members on the day Phoebe would have celebrated her 17th birthday.
She had grown up in Co Clare but moved to the US at the age of 14. Five American students were charged in connection with her suicide and have since been sentenced to community service or probation.
He told TDs and senators yesterday that the "ordeal" had given him certain insights into how widespread bullying was -- and how it affected people for decades after they left school.
"These instances were not just recently, but 10, 20, or 30 years ago, and they were talking about how it is still affecting their whole lives," said Mr Prince, who is now living in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare.
"Their educational opportunities, feelings of lack of self-confidence, lack of self-worth and isolation; these are exactly those feelings that lead young people to take their own lives,'' he stressed.
"It is a massive, massive social problem and like an iceberg the vast bulk of it is hidden below the surface," he added.
Working with the newly formed National Anti-Bullying Coalition, he said teachers needed to lead the change and be vigilant for tell-tale signs of bullying in the classroom.
Mr Prince is calling on the Government to introduce legislation making Irish schools legally-bound to introduce a new anti-bullying programme -- and then fly a flag to show they are a "Safe School".
"Using a computer in the staffroom, teachers who witness incidents of aggression could type the aggressor and the victims' names into a computer program which uses analysis software.
"This would show up the names of repeat victims and also show up the names of serial aggressors. At this point the parents should be called in," he said.