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Teachers in cyber-bullying protest after abuse by pupils

CYBER-Bullying of teachers is set to be raised at union conferences this week after four students were suspended from a South Dublin college.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is expected to come under pressure to combat cyber-bullying after the incident at Oatlands College, Stillorgan.

Mr Quinn has announced a new forum to explore how bullying in schools can be stopped, with an initiative to tackle homophobic bullying.

The Anti-Bullying Forum will be held in mid-May and will include schools, support groups and parents and student groups.

Four boys were suspended at Oatlands for posting abusive remarks about three teachers on Facebook.

The teachers were subjected to "vile and completely baseless" allegations on the social networking site created by one student and administered with three other pupils. This student and three other boys have been suspended for 20 school days by the school board of management, pending an investigation by the National Education Welfare Board.

The Oatlands board is expected to propose the expulsion of all four students when it reconvenes next month.

The students can appeal any explusion under Section 29 of the Education Act. They will be required to appeal the decision if they want to be eligible for home schooling. Under the Education Act, students who have been expelled from one school are also obliged to appeal that decision before they seek admission to another school.

More than 40 other students at the school were given detention on a recent Saturday morning after tagging the offending material as a "like" on Facebook. The Oatlands incident was revealed after pupils attended a school musical, Hairspray, over the St Patrick's weekend.

The special Facebook page made abusive remarks of a sexual nature against both a male and a female teacher. Abusive comments about the working hours of another teacher were also posted.

The offending page was said to be "highly inappropriate, inoffensive and damaging".


The school board decided to suspend the four after they were interviewed with their parents.

The school is taking the matter "extremely seriously" and has written to parents of students to highlight concerns over the inappropriate use of social media websites.

The offending material was taken down within 24 hours after a teacher at the school alerted the principal, Keith Ryan. He said that he was not in a position to comment as the disciplinary process was ongoing.

Oatlands, run under the aegis of the Christian Brothers, is one of the best-known fee-paying schools in Dublin and now has an enrolment of more than 500 pupils.

It has a strong academic pedigree with many of its students going on to nearby University College, Dublin and Trinity College Dublin.

A spokesman for the teachers' union, ASTI said: "Any type of bullying cannot be tolerated. Cyber-bullying is just a modern day form of bullying. Whether it's student against student or student against teacher, it's very serious.

"There needs to be a whole look at electronic media and how quickly things can go viral and very often, badly wrong."