THE principal of a Limerick school which suspended 28 students after they ‘liked’ an offensive post on Facebook about a staff member is standing over his decision.
The actions of Noel Malone, principal of Colaiste Chiarain in Croom, have attracted considerable national media coverage and comment on social media sites since they were first reported on the Limerick Leader website, www.limerickleader.ie, on Monday afternoon.
All 28 of the students, several of whom are from the city, have since returned to school and are reported to have sent a written letter of apology to the staff member in question.
Mr Malone says a strong message has been sent out by the school’s actions.
“I spent two hours with them from first year to Leaving Cert on the day we were suspending them, going through it with them, asking for feedback and asking them if they felt that his was a reasonable response by the school and if it was appropriate,” he said.
Responding to claims that the action taken by the school was “an overreaction”, Mr Malone defended Colaiste Chiarain’s stance, saying the post on Facebook “was a clear example of cyberbullying” and was in breach of the school’s anti-bullying policy.
Mr Malone said “practically 100%” of the parents of children attending the school have expressed their support for the school’s actions.
“There was shock and certainly disbelief and some people found it very hard to understand how their son or daughter could have done such a thing,” he said adding that the school authorities took a screen-shot of the offensive post before dealing with the matter.
Mr Malone says while a criminal offence may have been committed, he doesn’t expect that gardai will be called in.
“We didn’t refer it to the gardai because it is a matter for the victim themselves to make that referral and I don’t think that they intend to,” he said.
The principal, who has been head of Colaiste Chiarain for 14 years, says the two-day suspension imposed on the students was “not a life sentence” and he insists there will be no further repercussions for those involved.
He stressed that the pupils who were suspended have acknowledged that what they did was wrong.
“They were very regretful, very remorseful. Even before we had left the school they had gone to the relevant victim and had apologised. They made that very clear,” he said.
While the offending post has since been removed, Mr Malone has strongly criticised Facebook for its response.
In reply to Mr Malone complaint about the post, the social media giant states that after carefully reviewing the photo, it found “it doesn’t violate our community standard on bullying and harassment so we didn’t remove it.”
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