Saturday 21 July 2018

Teachers told defending bullied colleagues could prevent suicides

Senator Gerry Craughwell, former president of the TUI
Senator Gerry Craughwell, former president of the TUI
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

Teachers have been told they need to stand up for colleagues who are being bullied rather than later saying, "Isn't it a shame when one of our colleagues committed suicide."

Former Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) president, Gerry Craughwell, said he had no doubt that several suicides each year were the result of bullying in the workplace.

He said there were incidents of teachers being bullied by management, colleagues and students.

The TUI has called for special training for union representatives and officers to deal with allegations of harassment and bullying.

But Mr Craughwell, who is also an Independent senator, says that investigations of alleged incidents need to be taken out of the hands of the union, which is unequipped to deal with it.

He told delegates at the final day of their annual congress in the INEC Killarney that there was a problem in identifying and defining precisely what bullying was.

He added that it was constantly being misrepresented, and that robust management was not bullying.

He said: "It can be as subtle as comments like 'Please don't make any contributions at my next meeting', or the classic when a principal says to a teacher, 'We need to meet on Friday', with no indication of what that meeting is for.

"But colleagues sit on their hands because we're afraid the cannon may be turned on us, so it's easier to sit back and watch a colleague being slowly destroyed and do nothing about it."

The IT teacher, who is on a career break from Blackrock College of Further Education, said he didn't necessarily agree that it was the "place" of the TUI to investigate allegations.

"The last thing we want is amateurs dabbling in the situation," he said.

"We need a professional mechanism in place to allow for the proper investigation.

"The investigation process for bullying is an extremely complex one.

"You're asking someone who may not even fully understand the concept to adjudicate on a series of minor incidents and establish if that was forethought of malice," he added.

Irish Independent

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