Scoil Náisiúnta Réalt na Mara Réalt na Mara National School

Mill street, Dundalk, Co Louth, A91 TD3H

(042) 9327230
Principal: Mr Phil McCaul

Realt Na Mara National School Front photo

Anti-Bullying Policy

School Position on Bullying

Réalt na Mara school community believes that each pupil has a right to an education free from fear and intimidation.

The school regards bullying as a serious infringement of individual rights and a serious threat to the self-esteem and self-confidence of targeted pupil(s). Therefore it does not tolerate bullying of any kind.

Every report of bullying is treated seriously and dealt with, having due regard for the well being of the targeted pupil(s) and the perpetrator(s).

An ‘Anti-Bullying Team,’ made up of staff members, exists to cultivate an environment free from bullying.

The immediate priority, should a bullying incident occur, is ending the bullying, (thereby protecting the person(s) being targeted), resolving the issues and restoring the relationships involved insofar as is practicable using a “Reform, not Blame” approach. Parents and pupils are required to co-operate with any investigation.

All pupils are expected to contribute to the creation and maintenance of a safe environment in the school. On becoming aware of any bullying situation, in or outside the school, involving members of the school community they should notify a trusted responsible adult. Bullying behaviour is too serious not to report.

Pupils’ participation in school life in general is encouraged through existing school structures. Awareness of bullying, and willingness to take action to prevent or stop it, is part of this participation.

Anti-Bullying Policy

  1. In accordance with the requirements of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 and the code of behavior guidelines issued by the NEWB, the Board of Management of Réalt na Mara has adopted the following anti-bullying policy within the framework of the school’s overall code of behavior. 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 recognizes 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 behavior:

    • 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 behavior in a non-threatening environment; and
      • 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 behavior (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 behavior, 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 behavior 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 behavior, 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 behavior.

    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 behavior.

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

    This definition includes a wide range of behaviour, whether verbal or written, whether physical or social, whether targeting person or property, whether carried out directly or indirectly or through any electronic or other medium, which could harm a pupil or undermine her/his self-esteem or self-confidence.

    Appendix 1 gives a list of specific examples of bullying behaviour. This list is not exhaustive. Additional information on different types of bullying is set out in Section 2 of the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools.

    Appendix 2 lists some Indicators of bullying behaviour.

    Appendix 3 details some of the possible Impacts of bullying behaviour.

  4. The “Relevant Teacher(s)” for investigating and dealing with bullying in this school is the class teacher.

  5. The education and prevention strategies (including strategies specifically aimed at cyber-bullying and identity based bullying) used by the school are as follows:

    • At least five awareness-raising exercises per school year for each class group (e.g. from the “Awareness-Raising” strand of the Anti-Bullying Campaign, via its website), pro-actively explaining the nature and variety, causes, consequences and unacceptability of bullying.
      • Pupils are helped to examine the issue of bullying in a calm rational way, outside of the tense context of particular bullying incidents. In the process they are made more aware of the nature of bullying and the various forms that it can take.
      • Pupils are made aware that the consequences of bullying behaviour are always bad for those who are targeted, even if this is not always obvious at the time.
      • Pupils are encouraged to recognise, reject and report bullying behaviour, either spontaneously or through questionnaires that are regularly used in the school.
    • Through presentations or other exercises, the school staff and parents/guardians are made aware of the nature of bullying and the signs that might indicate that a pupil is being bullied. They are encouraged to be vigilant in watching out for signs of bullying and to report any suspicion of bullying they may have to the “Relevant Teacher” (in the case of staff members) or any staff member (in the case of parents/guardians).
    • Through regular reports in school newsletters and other communications as well as at meetings with parent/guardian groups parents/guardians are regularly informed of the activities of the school ‘Anti-Bullying Team’ and encouraged to support its work.
    • Approaches to decreasing the likelihood of bullying for pupils with SEN include inclusion, focusing on developing social skills, paying attention to key moments such as transitioning from primary to post-primary and cultivating a good school culture which has respect for all and helping one another as central.
    • The SPHE curriculum makes specific provision for exploring bullying as well as the inter-related areas of belonging and integrating, communication, conflict, friendship, personal safety and relationships. The Stay Safe programme is a personal safety skills programme which seeks to enhance children’s self-protection skills including their ability to recognise and cope with bullying. Other programmes include Friends for Life/ Bullying and Conflict Resolution/ Dealing with my feelings and emotions/ Social stories/ Circle Time/ Role Play/ Mindfulness/ Websites which promote internet safety.
    • An annual anti-bullying/friendship week.
    • Within the teaching of all subjects we aim to foster an attitude of respect for all: to promote the value of diversity; to address prejudice and stereotyping and to highlight the unacceptability of bullying behaviour. Co-operation is promoted through team sports and school clubs as well as through practical subjects. Sporting activities in particular provide excellent opportunities for channelling and learning how to control aggression.
  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, (e.g. the six step approach available from the “Dealing with Incidents” section of the Anti-Bullying Campaign website) are as follows:

    • The ‘Relevant Teacher’ investigates all instances of reported or suspected bullying behaviour, whether these take place within the school or outside it, with a view to establishing the facts, bringing any such behaviour to an end and to restore, as far as is practicable, the relationships of the parties involved.
    • The School, through the ‘Relevant Teacher’ reserves the right to ask any pupil to write an account of what happened, as part of an investigation. This will be a standard procedure and does not necessarily imply that a pupil is guilty of misbehaviour.

      Pupils who are alleged to have been involved in bullying behaviour are interviewed by the ‘Relevant Teacher’ to establish the nature and extent of the behaviour and any reasons for it. All interviews will be conducted with sensitivity and with due regard to the rights of all pupils concerned. If a group is involved, each member will be interviewed individually at first. Thereafter, all those involved will be met as a group. At the group meeting, each member will be asked for his/her account of what happened to ensure that everyone in the group is clear about each other’s statements;

      Each member of a group will be supported through the possible pressures that they may face from the other members of the group after interview by the teacher. Pupils who report bullying therefore are not getting others in trouble so much as enabling them to get out of trouble into which they may ultimately get if the bullying continued.

      In the event that they have been involved in bullying behaviour they are asked to sign a binding promise that they will treat all pupils fairly, equally and respectfully including the targeted pupil(s). The parents of the parties involved will be contacted at an early stage to inform them of the matter and explain the actions being taken (by reference to the school policy).

    • The ‘Relevant Teacher’ does not apportion blame but rather treats bullying behaviour as a mistake that can and must be remedied. Efforts will be made to try to get him/her to see the situation from the perspective of the pupil being bullied. S/he emphasises that the intention is not to punish perpetrators but to talk to them, to explain how harmful and hurtful bullying is and to seek a promise that it will stop. If that promise is forthcoming and is honoured there will be no penalty and that will be the end of the matter.

    • When an investigation is completed and/or a bullying situation is resolved the 'Relevant Teacher’ will complete a report, to include the findings of the investigation, the strategy adopted and the outcome of the intervention, as well as any other relevant information.

    • If a pupil has signed such a promise but then chooses to break that promise and continue the bullying behaviour, this can then no longer be considered a mistake. In this event parent(s)/guardian(s) will be informed and requested to countersign their daughter/son’s promise. Breach of this additional promise by further bullying behaviour is regarded as a very grave matter and a serious sanction may be imposed by the school authorities (See sanctions below).

    • It will also be made clear to all involved (each set of pupils and parents) that in any situation where disciplinary sanctions are required, this is a private matter between the pupil being disciplined, his or her parents and the school.

    • Follow-up meetings with the relevant parties involved will be arranged separately with a view to possibly bringing them together at a later date if the pupil who has been bullied is ready and agreeable. This can have a therapeutic effect.

    • All documentation regarding bullying incidents and their resolution is retained securely in the school.

    • Sanctions:

      Where a pupil has been found to be engaged in bullying behaviour, has formally promised to stop and has broken that promise, any of the following sanctions may be imposed:

      • S/he may be required to sign another promise, this time countersigned by a parent/guardian;
      • Parent(s)/guardian(s) may be contacted by the ‘Relevant Teacher’ and informed of the nature and extent of the bullying behaviour with a view to agreeing a strategy whereby a promise to end the bullying behaviour would be honoured. The school will give parents an opportunity of discussing ways in which they can reinforce or support the actions being taken by the school and the supports for their pupils;
      • Parent(s)/guardian(s) may be invited to a meeting with the ‘Relevant Teacher’ and the Principal and the pupil may be suspended from school.
      • The case may be referred to the Board of Management and the pupil may be expelled from the school.
    • In relation to bullying in schools, Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011 (Children First) and the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools provide that in situations where “the incident is serious and where the behaviour is regarded as potentially abusive, the school must consult the HSE Children and Family Social Services with a view to drawing up an appropriate response, such as a management plan”.

    • Serious instances of bullying behaviour will, in accordance with the Children First and the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools, be referred to the HSE Children and Family Services and/or Gardaí as appropriate.

    • The Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools also provide that where school personnel have concerns about a child but are not sure whether to report the matter to the HSE, the Designated Liaison Person (Principal) must seek advice from the HSE Children and Family Social Services.

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

    • Bullied pupils:

      • Ending the bullying behaviour,
      • Changing the school culture to foster more respect for bullied pupils and all pupils,
      • Changing the school culture to foster greater empathy towards and support for bullied pupils,
      • Indicating clearly that the bullying is not the fault of the targeted pupil through the awareness-raising programme,
      • Indicating clearly that the bullying is not the fault of the targeted pupil through the speedy identification of those responsible and speedy resolution of bullying situations,
      • After resolution, enabling bullied pupils to complete a victim-impact statement,
      • Making adequate counselling facilities available to pupils who need it in a timely manner,
      • Helping bullied pupils raise their self-esteem by encouraging them to become involved in activities that help develop friendships and social skills (e.g. participation in group work in class and in extra-curricular group or team activities during or after school),
      • Continuing and/or extending the “buddy system” in the school.
    • Bullying pupils:

      • Making it clear that bullying pupils who reform are not blamed or punished and get a “clean sheet,”
      • Making it clear that bullying pupils who reform are doing the right and honorable thing and giving them praise for this,
      • Making adequate counseling facilities available to help those who need it learn other ways of meeting their needs besides violating the rights of others,
      • Helping those who need to raise their self-esteem by encouraging them to become involved in activities that develop friendships and social skills (e.g. participation in group work in class and in extra-curricular group or team activities during or after school),
      • Using learning strategies throughout the school and the curriculum to help enhance pupils’ feelings of self-worth,
      • In dealing with negative behavior in general, encouraging teachers and parents to focus on, challenge and correct the behaviour while supporting the child,
      • In dealing with bullying behaviour seeking resolution and offering a fresh start with a “clean sheet” and no blame in return for keeping a promise to reform.
  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. The Board of Management confirms that the school will, in accordance with its obligations under equality legislation, take all such steps as 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.

  10. This policy was adopted by the Board of Management on //______.

  11. This policy has been made available to school personnel, published on the school website and provided to the Parents’ Association. A copy of this policy will be made available to the Department of Education and Skills and to 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 to the Department of Education and Skills and to the patron if requested.

Appendix 1

Bullying can take a number of forms. These may include any of the following (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Repeated aggressive behaviour/attitude/body language, for example:
    • Shouting and uncontrolled anger,
    • Personal insults,
    • Verbal abuse,
    • Offensive language directed at an individual,
    • Continually shouting or dismissing others,
    • Public verbal attacks/criticism,
    • Domineering behaviour,
    • Open aggression,
    • Offensive gestures and unwanted physical contact.
  • Intimidation, either physical, psychological or emotional, for example:
    • Treating in a dictatorial manner,
    • Ridicule,
    • Persistent slagging,
    • Deliberate staring with the intent to discomfort.
    • Persistent rudeness in behaviour and attitude toward a particular individual.
    • Asking inappropriate questions/making inappropriate comments re. personal life/family
    • Asking inappropriate questions/making inappropriate comments re. social life or schoolwork.
  • Interference with property, for example:
    • Stealing/damaging books or equipment
    • Stealing/damaging clothing or other property
    • Demanding money with menaces
    • Persistently moving, hiding or interfering with property
    • Marking/defacing property
  • Undermining/Public or Private Humiliation, for example:
    • Condescending tone,
    • Deliberately withholding significant information and resources,
    • Writing of anonymous notes,
    • Malicious, disparaging or demeaning comments,
    • Malicious tricks/derogatory jokes,
    • Knowingly spreading rumours,
    • Belittling others’ efforts, their enthusiasm or their new ideas,
    • Derogatory or offensive nicknames (name-calling),
    • Using electronic or other media for any of the above (cyber bullying),
    • Disrespectfully mimicking a particular individual in his/her absence,
    • Deliberately refusing to address issues focusing instead on the person.
  • Ostracising or isolating, for example:
    • Deliberately marginalising an individual
    • Deliberately preventing a person from joining a group,
    • Deliberately preventing from joining in an activity, schoolwork-related or recreational
    • Blaming a pupil for things s/he did not do.

Appendix 2

Indicators of bullying behaviour

The following signs and symptoms may suggest that a pupil is being bullied:

(i) Anxiety about travelling to and from school e.g. requesting parents to drive or collect him/her, changing travel routes, avoiding regular times for travelling to and from school; (ii) Unwillingness to go to school, refusal to attend, truancy; (iii) Deterioration in educational performance, loss of concentration and loss of enthusiasm and interest in school; (iv) Pattern of physical illnesses e.g. headaches, stomach aches; (v) Unexplained changes either in mood or behaviour which may be particularly noticeable before returning to school after weekends or more especially after longer school holidays (vi) Visible signs of anxiety or distress e.g. stammering, withdrawing, nightmares, difficulty in sleeping, crying, not eating, vomiting, bedwetting; (vii) Spontaneous out-of-character comments about either pupils or teachers; (viii) Possessions missing or damaged; (ix) Increased requests for money or stealing money; (x) Unexplained bruising or cuts or damaged clothing; and (xi) Reluctance and/or refusal to say what is troubling him/her.

There may be other signs depending on the individual and his/her circumstances. The above signs do not necessarily mean that a pupil is being bullied but if repeated or occurring in combination, these signs do warrant investigation in order to establish what is affecting the pupil.

Appendix 3

Impacts of bullying behaviour

  • Pupils who are being bullied may develop feelings of insecurity, humiliation and extreme anxiety and thus may become more vulnerable. Self-confidence may be damaged with a consequent lowering of self-esteem. While they may not talk about what is happening to them, their suffering is indicated through changes in mood and behaviour. Extreme cases of bullying may result in suicide. It is, therefore, essential to be alert to changes in behaviour as early intervention can be very effective.
  • Pupils who witness bullying may also be affected and may suffer in similar ways to those who are bullied. For example, pupils who witness identity-based bullying and share that identity can experience anxiety and feel under threat themselves. Pupils can also feel guilt or distress at not being able to help the person being bullied.
  • There are also consequences for individuals who engage in bullying behaviour. Pupils who become involved in such behaviour can be at higher risk of depression. Other possible long-term consequences may include an increased risk of developing an anti-social personality, anxiety disorders, a likelihood of substance abuse and law-breaking behaviour in adulthood and decreased educational and occupational attainment.