School 'pranks' can descend into sheer bullying, warns Quinn
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has hit out at so-called end-of-year school pranks that he said could only be described as severe bullying.
The minister said some students had suffered "terror and fear" as a result of these incidents.
"If I was one of the students directly at the receiving end, I would not regard it as a prank," he said.
He expressed particular horror at the case of a fifth-year student from the south Dublin fee-paying Mount Anville girls' school who was tied up with a cord, blindfolded and driven to nearby Blackrock College.
A bottle of water was thrown over the girl, who was abandoned crying in the grounds of the famous rugby school for about half an hour.
The girl was found by friends after a text message from those involved, who are due to sit their Leaving Cert next week.
"That was more than a prank," said the minister, who said that it involved the "sheer bullying of four or five people".
In another recent incident, a Leaving Cert student from the fee-paying St Mary's College, Rathmines, was found, half-naked, tied to a tree in the grounds of nearby Muckross Park girls' school.
They were among a number of high-profile end-of-year incidents this year, which resulted in the suspension or expulsion of students who, in some cases, have been banned from sitting the Leaving Certificate in their school.
Mr Quinn said yesterday that there was a problem with bullying in society and schools, which is why he had set up an anti-bullying forum to tackle the problem.
He said it was a matter for schools and their boards of management to decide on sanctions and disciplinary action.
"Schools are autonomous, they have to exercise their own judgment and I would respect the judgment they make," he said. "After that, the State Examinations Commission will do everything it can to facilitate the taking of exams by such students."
Meanwhile, a Leaving Certificate student and a number of fifth-year students were suspended after bringing a live baby rabbit into a school.
Staff at St Declan's Community College, Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford, said they were "disgusted" by the end-of-term prank as the animal was severely distressed.
The school confirmed there was "nothing physical" done to the animal in the incident which occurred last week. However, it was obviously in distress.
It immediately moved to suspend the pupil who brought the animal in and the others who had assisted for up to three days.
The rabbit was later released into the fields near the school.
Patricia Casey, Analysis