Saturday 18 November 2017

All schools have been hit with problem, says Kiera

Principal Kiera O’Sullivan.
Principal Kiera O’Sullivan.

THERE is not a school in the country which can honestly maintain that it does not have a problem with bullying, according to Kiera O'Sullivan, principal of Coláiste Bríde in Enniscorthy.

These days there is little or no blood and hair in the school corridors to provide clues, especially in an all girls' school such as hers. The action has largely moved from fisticuffs to Facebook and it is not something that she and her staff can ignore.

'Technology has made bullying more difficult to detect,' says the principal frankly. 'It has moved from being easy to detect to being subtle and underhand. Ninety per cent of bullying is on social media.'

The new guidelines from the Department of Education are helpful says the woman in charge at 'The Mercy'. However, each school has to develop its own approach.

In the case of Kiera O'Sullivan's establishment, they called in an expert, turning to Doctor Maureen Griffin, forensic psychologist, to give guidance to students, teachers and parents, during an eye-opening day long session at the campus on Shannon Hill.

The visiting expert alerted the youngsters of what to be on the look out for, underlining the message that whatever they write on websites can be seen by everyone. The good doctor certainly jolted parents out of any complacency they may have had on the issue with her insights. Maureen Griffin also set a stiff challenge to the staff who are now required to be up-to-speed on the wonders and woes of Twitter.

'Teachers need to be on top of social media,' says Ms. O'Sullivan simply. Moreover, she and her colleagues must attempt to be aware of what is going on without having access to the Facebook pages of their pupils – that would be inappropriate. The guest expert directed them to many of the sites and to the trends in the various age groups.

However, once she departed after her trip to Enniscorthy last year, it was up to the staff to keep abreast of new developments. The principal accepts that it is not good enough to say that Facebook (or whatever) is outside the school control. A policy decision has been taken not to create social media specialists in the staffroom. Any one of the teachers may field a report, so every one of them has to be ready to react correctly. It is called the 'whole school pastoral system'. Suspensions or even expulsions may be invoked in bad cases but it is encouraging that such sanctions have not been required in the last couple of years.

Gorey Guardian

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