Proposed anti-bullying action plan to make Irish schools more LGBTQ+ friendly

As we get deeper and deeper into the Covid-19 pandemic, the country's children are spending more time online which has led to an uptick in cyberbullying, according to experts.

Two young boys sitting at a desk reading a book together. There's a globe on the left and a stack of books on the right. This story details the National Anti-bullying Action Plan in Ireland.
Image: Pixabay @White77

Today, January 19, the Cabinet is meeting to discuss and review Ireland’s National Anti-Bullying Action Plan, paying specific attention to combatting gender identity bullying, much of which takes place online.

Norma Foley, Minister for Education, will address the Cabinet on the measures which will seek to update its “action plan in line with current policies on child protection, wellbeing, and relationships and sexuality education”, according to The Irish Times.

The suggested changes are coming from a steering group that has been established to identify the types of bullying prevalent in schools as well as the most effective ways to address it.

Additionally, a range of education stakeholders are being consulted for their expertise and recommendations from the Oireachtas Committee on Education’s August 2021 report on school bullying and mental health are being considered.

The current Action Plan has been in place since 2013 and was originally intended to be reviewed every three years, according to Dr Michael Barron, the founding director of BeLonGTo.

“So important the National Anti-Bullying Action Plan is updated,” Barron wrote on Twitter. “When we wrote it in 2013 as part of an excellent committed @Education_Ire working group it was groundbreaking, first mandatory requirements on all schools re LGBT students.”

The NXF also Tweeted out in support of the review which aims to reduce bullying of all kinds.

“[The updated National Anti-Bullying Action Plan] is welcome and we look forward to hearing more about its implementation across all schools,” they wrote.

According to a survey conducted by UCD and Jigsaw, The National Centre for Youth Mental Health, 39 per cent of secondary school students have experienced bullying. Thankfully, this has fallen from 2012’s 45 per cent, but the 6 per cent drop is less than would be expected over a ten-year gap. These figures have been described as “worryingly high” by the Oireachtas Committee on Education.

If implemented, the revised Action Plan could lead to “transformative cultural change” in Irish schools, creating educational environments with a policy of zero tolerance for bullying.

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