Concern about bullying by a Teacher or a staff member
If you have a concern about an incident which occurred between your child and their teacher or a staff member, It is always best to try and clarify the incident and to nip any misunderstanding in the bud. An informal discussion about your initial concern about an incident should be arranged with the teacher to clarify what occurred and express your concerns. You should retain a personal note of the meeting afterwards in case the issue is not fully resolved and you need to follow up at a later date.
However, if the issue is more serious and ongoing, then you may wish to consider whether what is happening to your child can be considered as 'bullying'.
The Department of Education defines bullying as "unwanted negative behaviour, verbal, psychological or physical conducted by an individual or group against another person (or persons) and which is repeated over time" - (read Circular letter 0045/2013).
You should also review your school’s own anti bullying policy as they generally have specific details on what is considered bullying. For example, repeated intimidation or humiliation are usually considered a form of bullying. Serious or continuous bullying should always be brought to the attention of the school under Child Protection Procedures as it is a form of emotional abuse.
Child Protection Procedures for
Primary and Post-Primary Schools
If you do decide that you wish to move forward with an allegation of bullying against a teacher or staff member, then it is important that you familiarise yourself with the Child Protection Procedures from the Department of Education. Section 7 of the Child Protection Procedures from the Department of Education deals with allegations or suspicions of child abuse regarding school employees.
Emotional Abuse is one of the four classifications of Child Abuse. Serious bullying may be identified as emotional abuse where "the child’s health, development or welfare have been or are being seriously affected, or are likely to be seriously affected" (Section 4.3.3 CPP). The section opens by saying the most important consideration to be taken into account is the protection of children, and their safety and well-being must be the priority.
Section 7.1.2 - Child Protection Procedures
If proceeding with a formal allegation of Bullying (emotional abuse) by a staff member against your child it is important to be aware that under Section 7.1.3
of the Child Protection Procedures, there are two
processes to be followed:
(a) the reporting procedure in respect of the allegation/suspicion AND
(b) the procedure for dealing with the employee.
is undertaken by a Designated Liaison Person (DLP) - each school must have a DLP in place for dealing with child protection concerns. The name of the DLP should be displayed in a prominent position near the main entrance to the school, and it is usually the Principal. If you wish to report a child protection concern you should set out your concerns in writing to the DLP in your school who may or may not decide to make a report to TUSLA.
If ‘reasonable grounds for concern’ (section 2.4
of Child Protection Procedures) do exist, a report must be made to Tusla by the DLP. If ‘Harm’ (section 4.3 of CPP
) is also caused then a Mandated report must be made to Tusla. Harm is defined as the ‘child’s health, development or welfare have been or are being seriously affected, or are likely to be seriously affected.’ If no report at all is made to TUSLA then the DLP must advise the parent/guardian why within 10 school days.
is the responsibility of the Board of Management (BOM) and the issue should also be brought to their attention. It is advisable that a parent, when submitting their concerns in writing to the DLP as part of Process A above, they should also send a copy of their concerns, in writing, addressed confidentially to the Chairperson of the School Board of Management. The BOM can then follow a set of Disciplinary Procedures should the complaint warrant it. In training provided by the Department of Education it is clear that the Parental Complaints procedure should not be used
in relation to the handling of allegations of Abuse.
If a school indicates that the Parental Complaints Procedure be followed you should draw their attention to their Child Safegaurding Statement and Section 7 of the Child Protection Procedures along with the Department of Education’s own training on same.’
A parent can opt to report a child protection concern about a school directly to the Child and Family Agency Child Protection Social Work Services
by contacting your local social work office. TUSLA will tell you how best to proceed. It may then contact the school or ask you to contact the school or others.
A parent can also contact the Department of Education about their concern but the Department must
pass on the concern to TUSLA and/or the school authorities (and/or An Garda Síochána). They must pass them on even if you ask to speak with them in confidence. You can contact the Department by Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
or Phone: (090) 648 4099.
Unhappy with the outcome of a school investigation
If following an investigation at school level you remain unhappy with the outcome, you can contact the Department of Education and Skills on 090 6484099. While the Dept of Education and Skills does not have legal powers to instruct schools to follow a particular course with regard to individual complaints or to investigate individuals complaints, the Department will advise you on what further options are open to you
. One option will include:
- Appealing to the Ombudsman for Children. The Ombudsman does not have the power to look at the individual incidents of bullying but can, if it deems appropriate, examine the administrative actions of a school recognised with the Department of Education and Skills, provided the parent has firstly and fully followed the school’s complaints procedures. The key criterion for any intervention by the Ombudsman for Children is that the action of the school has had a negative affect on a child. The office can be contacted at: Ombudsman for Children’s Office, Millennium House, 52-56 Great Strand Street, Dublin 1; tel: 1800 20 20 40 or (01) 865 6800. Visit the OCO website for more information