Good afternoon all Parents/ Guardians of 1st Year Students,
This e mail is specifically being sent to 1st year parents , to update you on a very important information talk that was delivered to your sons on Monday of this week (Monday 13th September). This talk was on the topic of bullying and creating awareness around the very strong and robust Anti Bullying campaign that we run in the school throughout the school year. We are very proactive in the school in relation to raising awareness of bullying and also in relation to encouraging students who are being bullied to tell. We have, over the years, adopted a very unique Anti Bullying Policy. It is referred to as the “No Blame” policy. This policy is very much based on the psychology that, every child can make a mistake. Sometimes students are unaware of the hurt and pain that they are causing to one of their peers, through for example, comments that they make (verbal bullying), and once their attention is drawn to this the bullying behaviour stops. It must be remembered however, that if a bullying issue is deemed to be a one-off serious incident, such incidents are dealt with through our Code of Behaviour.
Through our research, which incidentally, commenced 13 years ago, we found that the biggest deterrent to tackling bullying, was creating a space for the person who was being bullied to tell someone about their suffering. Therefore, our Anti Bullying Policy had to and does, make it easier for the victim to tell, without the worry, stress and anxiety that the perpetrator (bully) may seek retribution.
There are 2 strands to our Anti Bullying Policy
The students are taught explicitly about what bullying is and is not.
A simple acronym is used to remind students that Bullying is H.A.R.D
1st years in particular need to be educated in the area of bullying, given the fact that they are coming from different primary schools (who all exhibit varying methods of dealing with bullying) and indeed homes, which inevitably exhibit varying levels of behavioural tolerance. What is tolerated as acceptable behaviour in one household may be totally unacceptable in another household. Very often some of our 1st years come to us from primary school with bullying traits and behaviours. Once we speak to the students it is obvious that they assume that what they are doing is acceptable. These students now have to learn new behaviour patterns. We are consistently vigilant regarding bullying behaviour and have a team of seven teachers who work daily on surveys, interviews and raising awareness. We are so fortunate to have a team of teachers (who are timetabled twice a week and the rest of the time give up their free classes) who care so much for our boy’s welfare, that they are willing to give up their free time to ensure that all students feel safe and comfortable in school. All teachers in our school have received specific training in detecting , monitoring and reporting instances of bullying. It is, therefore, hugely important that parents too, speak to their sons around the topic of bullying and encourage their boys to report negative/inappropriate behaviour.
How do we educate the students on the topic of Bullying?
1)We teach the students (1st session took place on Monday afternoon , 13th September , with our information talk) about the different types of bullying verbal, non-verbal, physical, extortion and cyber bulling. These phrases are fully unpacked for the students and specific examples are given in the talk to alert students to their behaviour and also to ensure that the Anti-Bullying message is communicated clearly and transparently.
2) We run an annual Anti -Bullying week dedicated to raising awareness of Anti- Bullying procedures. During that week, age and stage appropriate resources are used to teach the students about the different aspects of bullying. In the past, topics centred on cyber bullying, LGBTIQ bullying and last year we focussed on encouraging the boys to speak out about bullying.
3)Students are taught about bullying and the negative impacts that this behaviour can have on the victim and the perpetrator, in Well Being class, SPHE, CSPE and Religion.
4)We speak not only to students abut bullying behaviour but also to you as parents. Usually, the Anti- Bullying talk takes place at the 1st year parent information evening, however, this evening will not go ahead this year, so we are informing our new 1st year parents by e mail.
Strand 2-Information Gathering
In order to make it easier for the victim to tell (this is always our main aim as if we know that a child is being bullied, we can solve the issue) we carry our regular class surveys (a copy of the survey used is attached here). This is something that happens throughout the school in all year groups from 1st to 6th year.
On any given school day, teachers will only meet the class for 40 minutes, in a controlled formal setting, and then the class move on. Very often teachers may miss subtle bullying behaviour. The students however are together all day. Students see and hear everything, so they are the best resource available to us to report bullying and they do (once that culture of telling is fostered). In older year groups the culture of Anti -Bullying has become so progressed in our school, that it is not unusual for students to approach the Anti -Bullying coordinators Ms. D. Collins/ Mr. Slattery, Mr. Quilter or myself and state that they are concerned that a particular student is getting a hard time. In addition, many of our parents will ring the school and report any concerns that they may have. They may have overheard a conversation going home in the car and are, as a result, willing to give us information that will serve to help a child who is suffering.
Any information that we ever receive regarding bullying behaviour is always treated with the strictest of confidence.
If a child is found to be bullying and has been named on a survey several times as being a perpetrator they will then be interviewed by a member of the Anti- Bullying team (seven members of staff make up this team). There are set questions that the student is asked(a copy of the questions asked in the interview is attached here) . The student is made aware of the negative impact that his behaviour is having, and subsequently signs a promise stating, that he will never carry out bullying behaviour again on that child or any other child in the school. The student then signs his first promise (copy of the promise is attached here) (at this point, only the student and the Anti Bullying team member carrying out the interview are aware that this student is being interviewed). Parents of the student, Year Heads, Tutors, Deputy Principal or Principal are not made aware of this promise, as this would make it a discipline issue and our aim is to stop the bullying and give the perpetrator an opportunity to change his ways-(not blaming behaviour changing behaviour)
95% of the time we never interview that student again. The bullying stops and the student displaying bullying characteristics is stopped in his tracks. The severity of the bullying is always a factor that is taken into consideration and every situation dealt with is case specific. If a student is violent towards another student, as aforementioned, then that is assault and will be dealt with under our Code of Behaviour.
If, having spoken to the student (perpetrator) the student’s name comes up again as bullying, then the student is again interviewed to clarify the facts and again he will be expected to sign a second promise. This time his parents will co- sign the 2nd promise and are at this point made aware of the first promise. (parents, as mentioned are not made aware of the 1st promise as we try to remain true to our “NO BLAME” philosophy. It is important to note that we have very few students in the school who move onto a 2nd promise.
Breaking of 2nd Promise
Should the student break a second promise they now move away from the Anti -Bullying policy and their behaviour is dealt with through our Code of Behaviour and in some cases the Board of Management.
For too long, boys in particular, were told to “man-up” and “toughen up”. That is not the message that your son will hear in this College. To report bullying is a sign of strength. We are not interested in punishing any student we simply want the bullying to stop- NOW. When a student reports a bullying incident it shows that he is taking responsible action- which is a life skill. Your son will eventually go on to College and the workplace and bullying occurs there too, so he needs to be able to recognise it and deal with- not hide it away and “bottle it up”. Boys by their nature do not talk so if we want to preserve their mental and physical health we need to encourage them to talk.
We will continue to do our work here but need the support of parents too, so as to ensure that our anti-bullying message is explicitly taught to our boys. At any point, if you are concerned about your child, please contact us. Your son will never need to know you made contact.
Please read and sign the information booklet(attached here) that your son was handed at the information meeting on Monday. Your son must return this signed information form to his tutor.