Religious Education teachers in Ireland have expressed concern that bullies are targeting practising Catholic students.
Their concerns emerged June 15 in a meeting of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament) Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science.
Sociology professor James O’Higgins Norman noted in an opening statement that much bullying behaviour was driven by issues of identity.
“In terms of identity, a recent study at our Centre found that teachers of Religious Education have specific concerns about students who are practising Catholics being targeted for bullying more than those who do not practice a religion,” said O’Higgins Norman, who holds the UNESCO Chair on Tackling Bullying in Schools and Cyberspace at Dublin City University (DCU).
He was referring to a research report produced by DCU’s Anti-Bullying Centre. The study is entitled “Inclusive Religious Education: The Voices of Religious Education Teachers in Post Primary Schools in Ireland: Identity, bullying, and inclusion.”
Ireland’s post-primary students are aged from 11 to 16 years old.
A DCU spokesperson told CNA that the report, written by Amalee Meehan and Derek Laffan, was currently awaiting publication and was likely to be available at the end of summer.
In his address to the Oireachtas joint committee, O’Higgins Norman recommended “awareness raising of the vulnerability of students based on identity, for example practising Catholics, LGBTQ+, Ethnicity, etc.”
A 2016 census found that 78.3% of Ireland’s population identified as Catholic, the lowest level recorded. The highest level recorded was in 1961, when 94.9% of people described themselves as Catholic.