Parents are protesting over an email sent out by The Nicolson Institute, in which it is stated that there have been no formal complaints about bullying in the school this year, and only six in the preceding three years – four of which were not upheld.
A new social media campaign has followed last week’s online anti-bullying petition, which has now been signed by almost 800 people, including current pupils and their parents. The new Facebook group, Uniting Against Bullying, was launched on Friday (September 28th) and now has 250 members.
The spur for the new campaign was an email sent on Friday (September 28th) by Nicolson Rector Dr Frances Murray to all school parents and carers. In the message, a chart details the total number of formal complaints about bullying referred to the Comhairle’s education department since 2015.
The letter from the school reads: “As you may be aware, there is an online petition in relation to bullying at The Nicolson Institute.
“Unfortunately, bullying does happen in schools and in schools in the Outer Hebrides, including The Nicolson Institute.
"Incidents of bullying are taken seriously and recorded along with any other concerns people may have."
Campaigner Donna Jaffrey, who has a son in the 4th year at the Nicolson Institute, said: “When you phone to complain nothing seems to be done and the school is obviously not logging the complaints.
"Parents are now discussing writing down what has happened, both for new complaints and for incidents already raised in the past.
“Because I started the petition, the Rector has asked to meet me and discuss my concerns, but when I go I want other parents to go with me and to take information in my hand about incidents from other families.
“What I don’t want is for there to be any kind of demonstration at the school, because although we might plan for a peaceful demonstration, parents will have very high emotions and we don’t want arguments breaking out.”
A representative of a youth advocacy group has offered to support the campaign and a Freedom of Information request is also planned, to get details of which incidents have been recorded.
A new Scottish Government system of logging and recording bullying incidents in schools came into force last week (Thursday 27th September).
Available as part of the Bullying and Equalities Module within the SEEMiS (education data management) system, it identifies SEEMiS as the most appropriate tool for schools and local authorities to record and monitor bullying incidents.
The guidance recommends that, once an incident has been raised, this should be logged as soon as possible – ideally within three working days. An investigation into the incident should follow and, where an incident is found to be bullying, schools should ensure that appropriate supports/interventions are in place for individuals/groups to address any underlying prejudice.
Friday’s letter from Dr Murray details interventions and support provided by the Nicolson Institute to all pupils, including regular meetings with guidance teachers, self-referral to school counsellors and drop-in sessions during school lunchtimes.