Anti-school bullying legislation tabled in Stormont
New legislation to help the fight against school bullying has been tabled in the Stormont Assembly.
Education minister John O'Dowd wants his Bill to become law before next year's Assembly election.
The proposed legislation will provide a legal definition of bullying, introduce a requirement for schools to record all incidents of bullying and require school boards of governors to take direct responsibility for developing and monitoring the effectiveness of anti-bullying policies and practices.
The Bill is at its first Assembly stage.
"I am delighted that this Bill is now on the way to becoming law early next year," said Mr O'Dowd.
"Addressing bullying in schools is an issue which has always attracted widespread interest and support from MLAs across all parties; and I know many of my colleagues, in particular those on the Education Committee, are as pleased as I am to see this Bill come to the floor of the Assembly today.
"Although bullying is a commonly understood concept, having a clear common definition will help schools, parents and pupils to recognise when bullying is occurring and will support more consistent practice across all of our schools.
"The recording of incidents will help schools to monitor the scale of the problem and how effective they are in addressing incidents. Placing a duty on boards of governors will increase their focus on the issue and encourage the use of best practice within each school.
"Young people are working hard at school to achieve their best and it is absolutely wrong when their efforts are undermined by bullying in any of its forms."
Mr O'Dowd said more than 4,200 young people shared their views on bullying as part of a public consultation exercise earlier this year.
"I hope that as the Bill makes its passage through the Assembly, I and my Assembly colleagues can demonstrate we have heard what they said and we agree with their unequivocal view that addressing bullying in schools must be a priority," added the minister.