Anti-bullying Policy

Anti-bullying Policy

1. In accordance with the requirements of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 and the code of behaviour guidelines issued by the NEWB, the Board of Management of St. Columba’s Comprehensive School has adopted the following anti-bullying policy within the framework of the school’s overall code of behaviour. This policy fully complies with the requirements of the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools which were published in September 2013.

2. The Board of Management recognises the very serious nature of bullying and the negative impact that it can have on the lives of pupils and is therefore fully committed to the following key principles of best practice in preventing and tackling bullying behaviour:

  • A positive school culture and climate which is welcoming of difference and diversity and is based on inclusivity;
  • encourages pupils to disclose and discuss incidents of bullying behaviour in a non-threatening environment;
  • promotes respectful relationships across the school community;
  • Effective leadership;
  • A school-wide approach;
  • A shared understanding of what bullying is and its impact;
  • Implementation of education and prevention strategies (including awareness raising measures) that build empathy, respect and resilience in pupils; and explicitly address the issues of cyber-bullying and identity-based bullying including in particular, homophobic and transphobic bullying.
  • Effective supervision and monitoring of pupils;
  • Supports for staff;
  • Consistent recording, investigation and follow up of bullying behaviour (including use of established intervention strategies); and
  • On-going evaluation of the effectiveness of the anti-bullying policy.

3. In accordance with the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools bullying is defined as follows:

Bullying is unwanted negative behaviour, verbal, psychological or physical conducted, by an individual or group against another person (or persons) and which is repeated over time.

The following types of bullying behaviour are included in the definition of bullying:

  • deliberate exclusion, malicious gossip and other forms of relational bullying,
  • cyber-bullying and
  • identity-based bullying such as homophobic bullying, racist bullying, bullying based on a person’s membership of the Traveller community and bullying of those with disabilities or special educational needs.

Isolated or once-off incidents of intentional negative behaviour, including a once-off offensive or hurtful text message or other private messaging, do not fall within the definition of bullying and should be dealt with, as appropriate, in accordance with the school’s code of behaviour.

However, in the context of this policy, placing a once-off offensive or hurtful public message, image or statement on a social network site or other public forum where that message, image or statement can be viewed and/or repeated by other people will be regarded as bullying behaviour.

Negative behaviour that does not meet this definition of bullying will be dealt with in accordance with the school’s code of behaviour.

Additional information on different types of bullying is set out in Section 2 of the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary School, and is attached at Appendix 1.

4. The relevant teachers for investigating and dealing with bullying are as follows:

  • the class teacher
  • the Year Head
  • Deputy Principal
  • Principal
  • The Chaplain, Career Guidance Counsellor and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator will be available as a support network for students involved in bullying behaviour.

5. The education and prevention strategies (including strategies specifically aimed at cyber- bullying and identity-based bullying including in particular, homophobic and transphobic bullying) that will be used by the school are as follows

  • At the meeting with Parents/Guardians of first years in May (at enrolment night) the issue of bullying is raised and they are encouraged to report any concerns regarding bullying to the school. Particular emphasis will be put on telling as soon as possible for quicker resolution.
  • The Agreed Procedures for Dealing with Bullying Incidents are outlined in the school diary each year.
  • The issue of bullying is discussed in SPHE classes each year and also regularly at Class Teacher Meetings. This will include cyber-bullying and identity-based bullying. The computer classes and SPHE classes will include information on the appropriate use of the internet and on cyber-bullying. This is further emphasised in our Code of Behaviour and Acceptable Use Policy.
  • As an additional layer of support, the sixth year mentors look out for any incidents of bullying of or among first year students. The mentors encourage students to tell them about incidents they have witnessed or experienced and this information is in turn relayed to the appropriate member of staff.
  • The Special Needs Assistants also look out for any incidents of bullying which may be occurring discretely in class.
  • The canteen staff, school caretaker and cleaning staff also look out for any incidents of bullying in the canteen or on the corridors.
  • Teachers have undergone in-service training in Restorative Practices and there are annual CPD opportunities for teachers in SPHE.
  • Anti-bullying posters, including cyber-bullying and LGBTQ+  posters are displayed prominently around the school.
  • All reported incidents of bullying, including anonymous reports, will be recorded by the Year Heads involved in accordance with the DES Anti-Bullying Procedures.
  •  Speakers from outside agencies will be invited in to give talks/workshops on anti-bullying topics. This may include any appropriate drama workshops available. Parents/Guardians will be informed when this takes place.
  • The school will participate in an anti-bullying week on an annual basis. Parents/Guardians will be informed when this takes place. Safer Internet Day and Anti-bullying week are marked each year with a range of student-led initiatives, co-ordinated by the Wellbeing Team (a cross-sectional Staff/Student body). Student involvement in the decision-making process with regard to anti-bullying is sought through whole-school consultations.
  • Anti-bullying is on the agenda for every Board of Management meeting and periodic summary reports will be made to the Board.

6. The school’s procedures for investigation, follow-up and recording of bullying behaviour and the established intervention strategies used by the school for dealing with cases of bullying behaviour are as follows:

Agreed Procedures for Dealing with Bullying Incidents

A Restorative Practice and pastoral care approach is the preferred option for dealing with both victims and bullies and both parties will be offered support where necessary and appropriate. The primary aim of the investigation of alleged bullying is to resolve any issues and to restore, as far as is practicable, the relationship of the parties involved (rather than to apportion blame).  The following steps will be implemented where deemed necessary:

Informal Intervention

When a teacher, or staff member, is made aware of an incident of negative behaviour an informal intervention will take place. All parties involved will be interviewed and reminded that this is unacceptable behaviour. A week later the staff member will check to see if the issue has been resolved. If not the formal steps outlined below will be followed. In either case the staff member will inform the Relevant Teacher that an informal intervention took place. The steps below are those which will be followed for any incident as outlined above or for any incident which is deemed to be too serious for an initial informal investigation. They will also be used in any situation where the behaviour being reported meets the definition of bullying as at point 3. 

Step 1

When a teacher becomes aware of an incident the parties involved will be asked to fill out an Incident Report Form. If there are any witnesses to the incident(s) they will also be asked to complete an Incident Report Form. The Year Head will be made aware of the incident investigation as soon as possible. He/she will speak to the parties involved, separately and then together, and remind them of the Anti-Bullying Policy and the steps involved in the procedures. The first attempt to resolve the situation will be made at this point. One week later, by arrangement, the Year Head will meet with the parties involved to see if the matter has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. If so, the completed forms will be kept on file by the Year Head and no further action will be taken.

Step 2

If the matter is not resolved at Step 1 the student(s) will be asked to meet with an agreed facilitator e.g. Career Guidance Counsellor or Class Teacher or Chaplain or another teacher of their choice. The outcome of this facilitation will be reported to the Year Head. Parents/Guardians of all parties involved will be informed of the incident, the investigation and the outcome.

Step 3

The matter has now become a discipline issue. A meeting will be arranged involving the Year Head, Deputy Principal, Parents /Guardians of those involved. Every effort will be made at this stage to seek a solution. Sanctions such as detention, loss of privileges (e.g. down town at lunchtime, representing the school on teams etc.) can be imposed at this stage of the process.

Step 4

The Principal now deals with the issue and further sanctions possibly including suspension may be imposed. The seriousness of the situation will be emphasised at this stage.

Step 5

If the matter is not resolved at Step 4 the Principal will bring the matter to a scheduled meeting of the Board of Management to seek the imposition of more serious sanctions e.g. a lengthy suspension. If this measure fails a further meeting of the Board will be sought to sanction the exclusion of the perpetrator(s) from the school.

Step 6

The process for exclusion will follow the steps outlined in the school’s Code of Behaviour and in accordance with the guidelines of the National Education Welfare Board. This is in keeping with the Education Act 1998 and The Education (Welfare) Act 2000.

It may be necessary, where an incident is considered to be very serious, to bypass Steps 1 and 2 and begin the procedures at Step 3.

Procedures for recording bullying behaviour:

(i) While all reports, including anonymous reports of bullying must be investigated and dealt with by the Year Head, he/she will use his/her professional judgement in relation to the records to be kept of these reports, the actions taken and any discussions with those involved regarding same;

(ii) If it is established by the Year Head that bullying has occurred, he/she must keep appropriate written records which will assist his/her efforts to resolve the issues and restore, as far as is practicable, the relationships of the parties involved.

(iii) The Year Head must use the recording template at Appendix 3 of the DES Anti-bullying procedures to record the bullying behaviour in the following circumstances:

a) in cases where he/she considers that the bullying behaviour has not been adequately and appropriately addressed within 20 school days after he/she has determined that bullying behaviour occurred; and

b) where the school has decided as part of its anti-bullying policy that in certain circumstances bullying behaviour must be recorded and reported immediately to the Principal or Deputy Principal as applicable.

In each of the circumstances at (a) and (b) above, the recording template at Appendix 3 of the DES Procedures must be completed in full and retained by the teacher in question and a copy provided to the Principal or Deputy Principal as applicable. It should also be noted that the timeline for recording bullying behaviour in the recording template at Appendix 3 does not in any way preclude the Year Head from consulting the Principal or Deputy Principal at an earlier stage in relation to a case.

All records kept will be maintained in accordance with the relevant data protection legislation.

Once per term the Principal will provide a report to the Board of Management setting out:

(i) the overall number of bullying cases reported (by means of the bullying recording template at Appendix 3) since the previous report to the Board and

(ii) confirmation that all cases referred to at (i) above have been or are being, dealt with in accordance with the school’s anti-bullying policy and the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary schools.

The minutes of the Board of Management meeting will record the above but in doing so will not include any identifying details of the pupils involved.

7. The school’s programme of support for working with pupils affected by bullying is as follows:

  • Counselling will be offered to those pupils affected by bullying – both victims and perpetrators, in recognition of the fact that bullies have often been victims of bullying themselves in the past.
  • If a student does not feel comfortable engaging with counselling services in the school an attempt will be made to encourage them to avail of services in the local community, e.g. at the Downstrands Family Resource Centre; the Hub or another recognised counselling service.
  • SPHE classes will reinforce the school’s anti-bullying policy and the unacceptable nature of bullying in this school community. The timing of this intervention will be sensitive to the feelings of those involved in order to avoid a negative reaction.
  • SPHE classes will work on self-esteem awareness and the building of self-esteem and resilience.
  • Pupils who observed bullying will also be offered counselling.
  • In cases where the school has serious concerns in relation to managing the behaviour of a student, the advice of the National Education Psychological Service (NEPS) will be sought.

8. Supervision and Monitoring of Pupils

The Board of Management confirms that appropriate supervision and monitoring policies and practices are in place to both prevent and deal with bullying behaviour and to facilitate early intervention where possible.

9. Prevention of Harassment

The Board of Management confirms that the school will, in accordance with its obligations under equality legislation, take all such steps that are reasonably practicable to prevent the sexual harassment of pupils or staff or the harassment of pupils or staff on any of the nine grounds specified i.e. gender including transgender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community.

(Note : the various procedures and policies for anti-bullying regarding the whole-school community are attached at Appendix 2)

10. This policy was adopted by the Board of Management on 25th March 2021.

11. This policy has been made available to school personnel, the Student Council, the Parents’ Association, published on the school website. It is readily available to parents and pupils on request.   A copy of this policy will be made available to the Department and the patron if requested.

12. This policy and its implementation will be reviewed by the Board of Management once in every school year. Written notification that the review has been completed will be made available to school personnel, published on the school website and provided to the Parents’ Association.  A record of the review and its outcome will be made available, if requested, to the patron and the Department.

Signed: __________________________                Signed: _________________________

(Chairperson of Board of Management)                                 Principal

Date:    25/03/2021                                                                                                 Next review: 25/03/2022

Appendix 1

(Extract from the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools 2013)

2.2 Types of bullying

 The following are some of the types of bullying behaviour that can occur amongst pupils:

  • Physical aggression: This behaviour includes pushing, shoving, punching, kicking, poking and tripping people. It may also take the form of severe physical assault. While pupils often engage in ‘mess fights’, they can sometimes be used as a disguise for physical harassment or inflicting pain.
  • Intimidation: Some bullying behaviour takes the form of intimidation: it may be based on the use of very aggressive body language with the voice being used as a weapon. Particularly upsetting can be a facial expression which conveys aggression and/or dislike.
  • Isolation/exclusion and other relational bullying: This occurs where a certain person is deliberately isolated, excluded or ignored by some or all of the class group. This practice is usually initiated by the person engaged in bullying behaviour and can be difficult to detect. It may be accompanied by writing insulting remarks about the pupil in public places, by passing around notes about or drawings of the pupil or by whispering insults about them loud enough to be heard. Relational bullying occurs when a person’s attempts to socialise and form relationships with peers are repeatedly rejected or undermined. One of the most common forms includes control: “Do this or I won’t be your friend anymore” (implied or stated); a group ganging up against one person (girl or boy); non-verbal gesturing; malicious gossip; spreading rumours about a person or giving them the “silent treatment”.
  •  Cyber-bullying: This type of bullying is increasingly common and is continuously evolving. It is bullying carried out through the use of information and communication technologies such as text, social network sites, e-mail, instant messaging (IM), apps, gaming sites, chat-rooms and other online technologies. Being the target of inappropriate or hurtful messages is the most common form of online bullying. As cyber-bullying uses technology to perpetrate bullying behaviour and does not require face to face contact, cyber-bullying can occur at any time (day or night). Many forms of bullying can be facilitated through cyber-bullying. For example, a target may be sent homophobic text messages or pictures may be posted with negative comments about a person’s sexuality, appearance etc.
  •  Name calling: Persistent name-calling directed at the same individual(s) which hurts, insults or humiliates should be regarded as a form of bullying behaviour. Often name-calling of this type refers to physical appearance, e.g., size or clothes worn. Accent or distinctive voice characteristics may attract negative attention. Academic ability can also provoke name calling. This tends to operate at two extremes. There are those who are singled out for attention because they are perceived to be weak academically. At the other extreme there are those who, because they are perceived as high achievers, are also targeted.
  • Damage to property: Personal property can be the focus of attention for bullying behaviour. This may result in damage to clothing, mobile phone or other devices, school books and other learning material or interference with a pupil’s locker or bicycle. The contents of school bags and pencil cases may be scattered on the floor. Items of personal property may be defaced, broken, stolen or hidden.
  • Extortion: Demands for money may be made, often accompanied by threats (sometimes carried out in the event of the targeted pupil not delivering on the demand). A pupil may also be forced into theft of property for delivery to another who is engaged in bullying behaviour.

Appendix 2

Whole-school procedures for Anti-bullying

There are four policies in the school to deal with bullying for the students and staff.

For allegations of bullying in the case of:

  • Student v student – the Anti-bullying Policy applies
  • Staff v staff – the Dignity at Work Policy and Procedure applies
  • Student v staff member – the school’s Code of Behaviour applies.
  • Staff v student – the ACCS, ASTU and TUI Code of Practice for Processing Complaints made by Parents/Guardians (or students who have reached 18 years of age), against a Teacher in Community and Comprehensive Schools applies.