Students Make Call For Action On Bullying

Over 100 school pupils made their way to Parliament Buildings today to compel MLAs to act to reduce bullying in local schools.

'Change Starts with Us' was the theme of the first ever Anti-Bullying Forum at Stormont that brought teenagers and politicians together to consider the current efforts to tackle the issue.

MLAs from across the Assembly supported the debate-style event in the Assembly Chamber, during which young people worked in committees to highlight matters of concern.

Bullying in education, sports clubs, faith organisations and online was addressed, with workshops also delivered on sectarian bullying and the targeting of young people in care or minority groups.

The young people then issued a call to action over the bullying experienced by them and their contemporaries.

Organised by the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF), the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, also spoke at the landmark event.

Senior Participation Officer at the National Children's Bureau, Gill Hassard said discussions focused on the collective responsibility we all have to find a solution.
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"Whether it is speaking to someone we trust when bullying happens or calling it out if we suspect it's happening to someone else, we can all work together for a solution," she commented.

"We feel that it is important to empower young people to engage with the formal decision-making structures that exist in our society, so that their views, opinions and concerns can be reflected in government policy."

Participants heard from experts on key bullying issues while the young people delivered their thoughts to MLAs.

Summing up the event's message, Ms Hassard added: "Together we can end bullying. Change starts here. Change starts now. Change starts with us."

Special permission to hold the first ever forum debate in the Assembly Chamber was granted by Speaker of the Assembly Alex Maskey MLA.

He added: "I am delighted to be able to use my first event as Speaker to open up Parliament Buildings to so many young and new voices on a crucial subject. Today is all about giving young people a platform to share their concerns about an issue they see at first hand, and may unfortunately have experienced, to have the opportunity to give their views and suggestions to Members about what more can be done. The issue of bullying is connected to so many other areas of major public policy including the abuse of social media and mental health, so it is timely to highlight them in the Assembly Chamber today."


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