Mid Ulster MLA Sandra Overend has reacted to news that almost 260 sexual assaults have taken place within Northern Ireland’s schools over the past three years.
“As parents we want to know that our children are safe at school, however the alarming statistics that have been released stating that there have been 259 sexual assaults in our schools in Northern Ireland over the last three year has shocked me and many people across Northern Ireland,” said Mrs Overend, who is the Vice-Chair of the Education Committee.
“Furthermore, looking at the breakdown of these figures, across the three years in question between 2012 and 2015 the number of assaults has almost doubled over that time.
“I was very disappointed to see the response from the Education Department on this issue - they referred to Guidance on Pastoral Care, a paper dated twelve years ago and only details reactive guidance on such assaults and doesn’t make any reference to the biggest threat in this area, the internet.
“It is also true that we as parents have a responsibility to ensure that our young people are not exposed to inappropriate behaviour so as not to distort their sense of ‘normal’. When I was school-age it was exposure to certain behaviour on television that was bad for us and parents often refused to allow young people to view certain programmes or after a certain time in the evening.
“Nowadays, however, the internet and social media is making the ability to protect our young people from this type of distortion very difficult. This underscores the need not only for the SBNI’s work on developing an e-safety strategy, but the need for Government to prioritise co-ordinated actions, and while I call now for urgency on this matter, almost three years have passed since I first highlighted this issue to the First and Deputy First Ministers and called for urgent action then.”
The internet and social media is making the ability to protect our young people from this type of distortion very difficult.